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What is Double Cream? Unveiling the Richness of a Culinary Staple

Editorial Team
Updated May 16, 2024
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What Is Double Cream?

Double cream, a staple in British and European culinary traditions, is a luxurious dairy delight renowned for its rich texture and versatility in the kitchen. With a fat content of approximately 48%, double cream surpasses the heaviness of single cream and even whipping cream, which typically contains around 35% fat. Double cream's high-fat content not only allows it to whip with ease but also makes it a perfect ingredient for thickening sauces and enriching desserts. However, chefs must handle it with care; overbeating can cause separation, resulting in a less desirable consistency. Understanding what is double cream and how to use it can elevate your cooking, offering a touch of indulgence to your culinary creations.

The butterfat content of double cream is around 48%, which makes it less fatty than clotted cream, but more dense than American whipping or heavy cream. Single cream has an even lower fat content and is similar to half and half. The high fat content of double cream makes it an excellent addition to hot foods, since the fat acts as a carrier, making it less likely to separate. For this reason, it is often used in things like creme caramel or in hot sauces.

When milk is initially collected at the dairy, it is centrifuged to extract various products. Originally, milk was allowed to stand and separate, but centrifuging is much faster and safer. Prolonged centrifuging will result in higher butterfat, creating double cream. Unfortunately, the high butterfat can also be a problem, as is the case when this cream is whipped too long and starts to turn into butter.

Since this dairy product can be easily whipped, it is a popular cream for pastry cooks, who often work with whipped or heavy creams. It can also be flavored and used to make things like creme Anglaise and other custards. The high butterfat makes a richer custard, which leaves a greater feeling of fullness. In sauces and soups, the cream makes the end result feel much more decadent.

The availability of double cream varies, depending on where in the world one is. In some areas, it is readily available at markets or directly through dairies, while in other regions, it can be hard to find. Other heavy or whipping creams can be used in recipes as a replacement, although the end result may not be as rich as the cook expects it to be. Chefs should avoid the use of clotted cream and cultured cream products like sour cream in its place, as these dairy products will behave extremely differently and can ruin a recipe.

Is Double Cream the Same as Heavy Cream?

Even though heavy cream and double cream are both rich dairy products, they are very different in their consistency and fat content. Heavy cream has a fat content that can range anywhere between 36% and 38%, which is significantly lower than the 48% of double cream. As a result, double cream is much denser and has a thicker and richer texture than heavy cream.

Heavy cream and double cream can be used interchangeably in some recipes. This is especially true when used as a topping or to finish sauces and soups. Keep in mind that double cream will yield a thicker and richer finished product. Heavy cream is the better choice if you want something just a little bit lighter.

However, it's not a good idea to substitute one for the other when called for as a key ingredient in a dish or baked good. The difference in fat content can result in a finished product that is either too greasy or too dry, depending on what you choose to substitute. Swapping can also impact factors like cook time, a batter’s ability to rise properly, and the overall look of the finished product.

How To Make Double Cream

Even though double cream is very popular in Europe, it can be quite difficult to find in the United States. Most standard grocery stores do not carry this product, although you may be able to find it in a specialty food store. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to make double cream at home in your own kitchen and there is more than one method to choose from.

The Stovetop Method

This technique for making double cream is simple but takes a little time and patience. You will need:

  • A large, nonstick, heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot
  • A slotted spoon
  • A blender
  • A container or jar with an airtight lid
  • ½ gallon of whole milk

Start this recipe by adding the whole milk to the saucepan and placing it on a burner over low heat. (This is important as it keeps the milk from scorching.) Stir only occasionally to prevent any burning on the bottom. Bring the mixture to a soft boil.

As it cooks, the fat from the milk will start to rise to the top. Use a slotted spoon to skim the rising fat into the container. Store the mixture in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, for 24 hours. Then, pour the double cream into the blender and process it until it is smooth and lump-free.

The Countertop Method

If you want a relatively hands-off alternative to making double cream at home, you can combine two simple ingredients and leave them to sit to make this homemade version. For this recipe, you will need:

  • One cup of heavy cream
  • One tablespoon of buttermilk
  • One glass jar with a tight-sealing lid
  • One small, thick towel

Simply pour the heavy cream and buttermilk into the jar and close the lid tightly. Shake the mixture for a full minute to ensure that it is completely combined. Wrap the jar with the towel and let it sit on the counter at room temperature for approximately 12 hours. It should have a very thick consistency but still be a liquid product. This version will have a tangy taste, so keep that in mind if you are making it for a specific recipe. You may want to add a little sweetener at the end to counteract the slightly sour taste from the buttermilk.

Tasty Ways To Use Double Cream

Like most other dairy products, double cream can be very versatile. You can use it in a number of more complex recipes, but it's very simple to add to everyday dishes to give them a little extra decadence as well.

Whip It Up

Double cream forms a delicious whipped topping in almost no time. In fact, it can be easy to over-whip it, transforming it into butter. Whisking it by hand helps ensure this doesn't happen. Then, you can use it to top virtually any dessert for a creamy finish.

Finish a Variety of Foods and Beverages

Stirring in some double cream can add richness to anything you're making. Transform spaghetti with marinara into a creamy pasta dish, create a tasty sauce with broth and pan drippings for your favorite roast chicken, or simply take your coffee and chocolate to the next level. It's a great way to finish both sweet and savory dishes.

Make a Trifle

Double cream helps you make a simple custard without the fuss, which is the perfect ingredient for a delicious trifle. Layer with your favorite fruits and cookies or pieces of cake for an easy yet impressive dessert.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon170308 — On Apr 26, 2011

On occasion, the double cream (kept in fridge) goes thick and globular. Why does this happen?

By anon61751 — On Jan 22, 2010

Are there any uses for expired double cream? Even if they are not food products.

By anon59940 — On Jan 11, 2010

i am doing a hospitality booklet and need to know where cream originates from?

By anon45246 — On Sep 15, 2009

what is the replacement for double cream in the manufacturing of ice cream?

By thiri82 — On Jan 11, 2009

can non dairy creamer be mixed with full cream milk powder?

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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