Whipped cream is cream which has been beaten with air, causing the fat droplets in the cream to form little pockets which approximately double the volume of the cream. The result is a very rich, frothy dairy product which can be used in a variety of ways, from frosting cakes to topping hot chocolate. This food can be purchased in pressurized canisters which are typically packaged with nitrous oxide as a propellant, and it can also be made quickly at home; the advantage to a home-made version is that it tends to be denser and richer, and the flavor can be better controlled.
In order for whipped cream to set up right, the base cream must have a fat content of at least 30%. When whipping cream by hand, cooks use some form of beater to whip the cream, beating either by hand or with a hand-held mixer. As the cream starts to whip up, ingredients like sugar and flavorings can be added. When the cream has almost doubled in volume, the cook must stop beating, or he or she will end up creating butter.
Whipped cream in pressurized canisters is actually beaten as it comes out of the canister. When the user presses down on the nozzle, the pressurized gases inside the canister whip the cream, causing it to come out in a frothy stream. Because of the use of pressurized gas, this form of whipped cream is much lighter and frothier. However, it is also more prone to dissolving back into liquid form, which can be especially important to remember if one is preparing a dish which will be served later.
As a general rule, the fresher the cream, the better the flavor of the whipped cream. Heavily stabilized cream like that in canisters at the store sometimes acquires an unpleasant, almost metallic flavor which causes people to prefer homemade versions. However, it is also possible to find re-usable canisters which can be loaded with pressurized gas and fresh cream for a more home-made flavor without the hassle of whipping by hand.
The light, frothy texture of whipped cream can be deceptive, tricking people into being unaware of the high fat content. When sugar and various flavorings are added, it can take on a more rich flavor, suitable for dipping fruit, topping desserts, and garnishing various drinks. Its rich nature causes some people to regard it as a luxury or special treat.