Chantilly cream is quite familiar to most Americans, who tend to think of it simply as whipped cream. Most American versions of whipped cream add both sugar and vanilla to the cream, which is essentially the same thing. This cream is credited to the chef Francois Vatel.
At the Chateau de Chantilly, Vatel supervised a huge banquet for Louis XIV and a reported 2,000 guests, where he created the now famous cream for use in pastries. Sadly, Vatel would not be able to enjoy the cream's later popularity; his despair over the slow cooking of the fish resulted in him committing suicide later that night.
The creation of Chantilly cream is thus tainted by Vatel’s suicide. Yet few remember its origins, or if they do, prepare the cream because of its popularity, and as a way to honor the terribly misguided genius of Vatel. Today, it is used throughout Europe in various pastries like eclairs, cream puffs, and it also may top ice cream.
In the US, Chantilly cream is relatively standard. American cooks may also use the cream in French or Italian inspired pastries, or to top, fill, or frost numerous types of cakes. The Fruit Basket cake, a golden cake, is layered with fruit and cream, and generally also frosted with the whipped cream. Many an angel food cake is also dressed with the cream, and the traditional sundae or banana split is usually topped with sweetened whipped cream.
To many chefs, the key to making Chantilly cream is to not over-whip the cream, which can result in turning it into butter. Often, sweetened cream is made with powdered sugar, but many purists insist on using superfine white sugar instead. If not beaten precisely, this can result in the Chantilly cream having a grainy texture.
It’s difficult to instruct people on how long to beat cream in order to achieve the right texture, since cream can vary, as can mixing speeds. Some whipping cream is made with stabilizers, which make the cream whip faster, but may have a bit of an aftertaste. Whipping cream without stabilizers should be whipped only to the point where soft peaks form.
Many simply substitute dessert topping for Chantilly cream in recipes. Alternately, one can purchase this cream in cans, as canned whipped cream. Both will not have the flavor of cream that is freshly made, though they are certainly less time-consuming.