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What is Heavy Cream?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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Heavy cream is a dairy product that is sometimes called whipping cream as it is called for in many recipes and usually requires whipping or mixing with a high-speed mixer. It is a grade of cream that has a butterfat content of between 36 and 40 percent. Though in the UK higher butterfat weight cream is available, heavy cream with a butterfat content of 40 percent is the highest butterfat weight cream available in the United States. In other areas, this product is also called double cream.

In cooking, heavy cream is often called for as an ingredient after it has been whipped. The cream doubles in volume after it is whipped and whips best when it is cold to start with and stays cold while whipping. If the cream is not cold enough it won’t whip well and may need to be re-chilled. After it has been whipped to the proper volume, the whipped cream is usually folded into other ingredients.

Some recipes do call for heavy cream without whipping. In these recipes, it can be substituted by the cup with a ratio of ¾ cup (6 ounces) milk and 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter, not margarine. Like other dairy products, it is perishable and requires proper storage and safe handling. Unless it has been pasteurized to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius), it should be kept in the colder part of the refrigerator and not the door. Recipes prepared with heavy cream should be properly stored once cooked.

Aside from cooking and baking, heavy cream is also used in many mixed drinks including Irish coffee, Godiva cream, eggnog, and Mekong. It may also be whipped as a garnish to coffee drinks.

Heavy cream is available in the dairy case at most grocery retailers and is most often sold in cartons. Buying cream with a short shelf life as indicated by the expiration date printed on the carton indicates it has not been ultra-pasteurized and will typically be fresher and richer in taste.

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.
Discussion Comments
By anon120734 — On Oct 21, 2010

A pint is a pound the world around.

By anon102360 — On Aug 07, 2010

recipe calls for a pound of heavy cream? what is that equivalent to? a cup?

By waldo09 — On Jul 16, 2010

Ohhh, lowfat yogurt! Thank you @ pistachios!

By waldo09 — On Jul 16, 2010

I like heavy cream, but doesn't it make you fat? How would you substitute it for a lower calorie option?

By pistachios — On Jul 06, 2010

For cold dishes, low-fat yogurt can be used to substitute heavy cream. This will save you several fat grams and calories.

By jsw23 — On Jul 06, 2010

While attempting to recreate one of Giada De Laurentiis's recipes for macaroni and cheese, I confused the required ingredient evaporated of milk with heavy cream. This mistake proved disastrous for the dish as my macaroni and cheese ended up tasting like a ham and cheese filled dessert.

Be sure to always differentiate between the two! Evaporated milk is a canned milk product with approximately 60% of the water removed from fresh milk. Unlike heavy cream, evaporated milk is shelf-stable. I've learned to always ask an associate while grocery shopping if I'm not certain of the difference between two seemingly similar items as the result of this cooking blunder.

By ivanka — On Jul 05, 2008

When a recipe calls for whipped cream, I place the whipping container into the freezer for a few hours or longer. The cold container will help the whipping process, and will better retain the structure of whipped cream.

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