heavy cream (hev-ee kreem) noun
Also heavy whipping cream. The richest of the readily available creams called for in baking and dessert-making, with fat content between 36% and 40%.
It is the level of fat that distinguishes one cream from another – such as light cream vs. heavy cream – and also how rich that cream is. The higher the butterfat content, the richer the cream. Heavy cream whips well due to its high fat content, which is why you cannot whip light cream or half and half.
Manufacturing cream is actually the heaviest cream with over 40% fat, but it is usually only available through commercial food-service channels. If you see it and want a very stable whipped cream, by all means try it out.
Most heavy cream that you will find in the supermarket dairy case will be ultra-pasteurized. This means that it has been exposed to high heat very briefly, which kills off microorganisms and therefore extends shelf-life. To some palates, it can taste “cooked” and it can also affect its ability to whip. If you have ever had trouble whipping heavy cream, this could be the culprit. Try to find heavy cream labeled simply as pasteurized (not ultra-) and see if it whips more easily for you and if you prefer its flavor. It is getting easier and easier to find pasteurized cream, often locally produced, at markets such as Whole Foods and farmer’s markets.
Image: Dédé Wilson