Have you ever looked at your pie and found its appearance slightly bare? Like it just needed a little something to take it to the next level. Or maybe you had some strawberries that you wanted to use in a dessert for guests but didn’t have much time? Well, look no further! Maybe all you needed was some chantilly cream with its perfect fluffy, airy texture to make everything better!
What Is The Difference Between Chantilly Cream And Whipped Cream?
Whipped cream is cream that is whipped on its own until it has doubled in volume. Since it is not sweetened, it will usually be added to sweet creams, such as pastry cream, to provide a lighter and airier texture.
Chantilly cream, starts off in the same way: heavy cream is whipped until soft peaks form but a sweetener and usually flavoring (such as vanilla extract) are then added, making this cream ideal as a topping. How much sugar to add will depend on the sweetness of the dessert you plan on making, but as a general rule, you can add about 10-15% of the weight of the cream.
What Happens When You Whip Cream?
Heavy cream contains about 35% fat. The fat globules do not like water (hydrophobic). They are protected by a layer (phospholipids), that keeps them away from the water in the cream.
When you start whipping the cream, you are actually incorporating air bubbles into it. But these bubbles aren’t strong enough initially and burst. But something else also happens. The protective layer around the fat becomes damaged from all the whisking. The fat globules are now exposed to the water and try to hide from it as quickly as possible.
They discover the air bubbles introduced from all the whipping and they start grouping all around them. That stabilizes the air bubbles. The volume of your cream will start increasing and it will become lighter and airier. You now have whipped cream.
If you keep whisking for too long however, the fat protected air bubbles will keep bumping into each other. The air bubbles will eventually get pushed out and the fat clumps will aggregate and become larger. Can you guess what you will get? Butter!
I tried to keep this explanation as simple as possible. Serious Eats has a very detailed post on cream science if you’d like to know more.
What Cream Should Be Used To Make Chantilly?
You are probably familiar with the confusion experienced when standing in the dairy aisle. So many creams, so many shelves but what is the difference? Chances are, you just picked a random cream and stuck to it because it works for most of your recipes. But selecting the perfect cream for whipping is essential to getting a perfectly fluffy and smooth cream that will hold. The most important thing to look at when picking the cream is the fat content.
Fat content of the cream
Since it is the fat in the cream that will stabilize the air bubbles and give you the light and airy texture of whipped cream, you should make sure it contains at least 30% fat. You will get the best results however if the fat content is higher than 35%.
Let’s quickly go through the different types of cream in case you aren’t sure what their fat content is:
- Half-and-half (10-12% fat)
- Light cream, also known as table cream or coffee cream (16-22%)
- Double cream (48%)
- Whipping cream (30-40%)
Whipping cream can either be:
- Light whipping cream which contains 30-35% fat. In England, a similar product would be single cream.
- Heavy whipping cream (similar to heavy cream) with 36-40% fat.
If you are wondering what whipping cream a recipe you like was referring to, if it is heavy whipping cream it will be specified. However, “light whipping cream” is used interchangeably with “whipping cream”.
I hope I didn’t confuse you! So let me just conclude this by saying: You can use heavy whipping cream (heavy cream) or double cream to make whipped cream. They have a fat content of more than 35%. They will whip easily and will hold their shape better. Just note that since the fat content of double cream is higher than whipping cream, it will produce a slightly denser chantilly.
Light whipping cream is acceptable if you really don’t have anything else but it will probably weep and become liquidy if not used quickly.
Creams that are ultra-pasteurized won’t whip as well1. An enzyme present in milk that helps fat globules form clusters is destroyed with the heat. You can probably still use ultra-pasteurized cream if that’s all you have, as stabilizers are usually added to help with the whipping.
It’s best to check the packaging to see if it is suitable for whipping. Either look at the fat content, which should be higher than 35%. Or see if it’s written that it can be whipped. Just note that some people complain of the “cooked” flavor of ultra-pasteurized cream.
Should The Heavy Cream Be Cold When Whipping?
Yes! Ideally, you should also place your mixing bowl and whisk in the fridge an hour ahead of time or freeze them for about 10 minutes before whipping. Some bakers even place their bowl over ice-water as they are whipping, to make sure the cream stays cold. This is especially useful if your kitchen is warm.
Why? When the cream is cold, it is more viscous and thicker. The fat globules are therefore closer to each other than they would be if the cream were warm. They can create a stronger network which will serve to stabilize the air bubbles created during whipping.
How To Whip The Cream
You can whip the cream by hand using a whisk, or using a hand-held mixer. You can also use a stand-mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. If you are making a small quantity, the best would be to whip by hand over a bowl of ice-water. Since this is probably not realistic for a few people who don’t have enough arm strength, I would say the next best choice for small quantities is the hand-mixer. This is my preferred method.
A stand-mixer is too powerful and it’s very easy to overwhip the cream when you don’t know yet what you are doing. If you are making a large quantity, then you will probably need the stand-mixer but keep a very close eye on it to avoid overwhipping.
At What Speed Should You Whip The Cream?
Start slow, and increase the speed progressively. First of all, you don’t want to get cream splattered all over your face! Then, you want to create smaller bubbles which will be more stable than larger ones.
When the cream starts getting foamy, slowly increase the speed to medium-high (until it reaches about 6 on a KitchenAid for example). Don’t go higher than that because: a) you don’t want to overwhip your cream and b) high-speed mixing will generate heat which will melt your fat and cause a less stable whipped cream.
The Different Stages Of Whipping Cream
- The heavy cream will initially go from a liquid stage to a foamy stage. There will be lots of air bubbles in the cream. The volume of the cream will start increasing.
- If you keep whisking, the cream will slowly start to thicken and take shape but there won’t be any peaks yet.
- The whisk will start leaving a trail in the cream and you will eventually get soft peaks. If you hold the whisk up, the peak formed will quickly fall back into the cream. This is a good stage to stop at if you plan on folding it into other ingredients. You will need to combine all the ingredients together and you don’t want to end up overbeating it.
- Medium peaks are peaks that hold their shape well but slightly tilt at the top. The recipe should state if you should stop at this point, or keep whipping.
- Stiff peaks will no longer tilt but stand up straight. The cream will hold onto the whisk comfortably when you lift it. You should not continue beyond this stage unless you are planning on making butter!
- If you keep whisking, the cream will start looking grainy and will resemble cottage cheese. You might notice yellow streaks appearing. This is a warning that you are no longer making whipped cream but butter. You can still salvage it so really, stop whipping!
- Still whisking huh? Well, you just made butter and buttermilk!
When Should You Stop Whipping?
This will depend on the recipe you are following and the texture you are looking for. If you plan on folding it into other ingredients, you should usually stop at the soft-medium stage. But if you want to pipe it, it should hold its shape so somewhere between medium and stiff would be good.
It shouldn’t be too stiff or else it will be denser and will start losing its fluffiness. This might sound counter-intuitive at first since you are incorporating air bubbles. But as explained before, if you keep whipping, the air bubbles will start to get knocked out.
What Type Of Sweetener Should You Use For Chantilly Cream?
A large variety of sweeteners can be used in chantilly cream: granulated sugar, icing sugar, honey… It really depends on your preferences. I personally prefer icing sugar, as it dissolves much better into the heavy cream. It also contains cornstarch which can help stabilize the cream. But use whatever you prefer or have on hand.
When To Add Sugar To The Whipped Cream
There is some contradicting information online. Some say you should add sugar before whipping, while others recommend adding it towards the end. I would say that it’s better not to add it too early so it doesn’t interfere with the formation of air bubbles .
If using icing sugar, you can simply add it towards the end as it will dissolve easily. But if you are using granulated sugar, don’t add it at the end or you’ll run the risk of overwhipping your cream while trying to dissolve the sugar granules. You can add it to the heavy cream when soft peaks form.
How To Flavor Chantilly Cream
Chantilly cream is most commonly flavored with vanilla. You can use vanilla extract (added at the soft peak stage) or a vanilla bean. If using a vanilla bean, you can add it at the beginning. For maximum flavor, you can even infuse it in the refrigerated cream the night before.
But you could also add coffee extract, cocoa powder, fruit juices, zests etc. Add them towards the end and gently fold them in. If you’d like to know how to make chocolate whipped cream, you’ll find step-by-step pictures when I used it to coat meringues in the chocolate merveilleux post.
Storing Chantilly Cream
Chantilly cream can be stored in an airtight container for 24 hours. Heat will cause it to deflate so you want to make sure it’s in a cold area of your refrigerator. So preferably not in the front or in the door of your refrigerator, which are susceptible to temperature changes whenever you open and close the door.
Another thing to be careful with is that whipped cream will pick up smells from other foods. So make sure you don’t put it near a garlicky dish!
Can You Make Chantilly Cream In Advance?
Chantilly cream will not hold its shape well if made in advance. The air bubbles created will slowly escape and the cream will start deflating. It is best to make chantilly cream just before use. But if this is not possible, then it might be better to stabilize it.
How To Stabilize Chantilly Cream
You might be wondering how store-bought chantilly cream can hold for so long while you barely have time to pipe your own cream. The answer lies in the stabilizers used! Gelatin for example will help you retain the light and airy feel.
How to add gelatin
I personally prefer preparing the chantilly at the last minute instead of using gelatin so I haven’t tried this method myself. But according to Gisslen2, you will need 5 g of powdered gelatin for 500 ml of heavy cream. Soften the gelatin in 30 ml of cold water for about 10 minutes.
Gently heat it for a few seconds in the microwave or on very low heat for a few minutes (heat 2 out of 9) until it looks smooth and liquidy. Don’t overheat it or else it will lose its thickening properties. When the heavy cream reaches the soft peak stage, slowly add your melted gelatin (not hot!) and continue whipping until you reach the desired stage.
The gelatin should feel barely warm to the touch before adding it to the whipped cream. Too cool and you won’t be able to incorporate it to the cold cream. Too hot and you will ruin the structure of the whipped cream.
Troubleshooting Chantilly Cream
Why won’t it thicken?
- Use cold heavy cream. Some bakers even suggest putting the bowl and whisk in the fridge before beating.
- If you used heavy cream with a butterfat content lower than 30%, your cream will not whip properly. As previously explained, the fat molecules are responsible for stabilizing the air bubbles incorporated during whipping.
- If you are using a stand-mixer, make sure the quantity of cream is not too small for it. The whisk might not be mixing everything properly. If you are using less than 200 ml of heavy cream, try switching to a hand-mixer or whisking it by hand.
Why did it curdle?
You overwhipped the cream.
Solution: If you overwhipped just a little (and not to the butter stage), you might still be able to save it by adding a few tablespoons of cold heavy cream and stirring gently.
And if your cream has completely curdled and there is liquid in the bowl, you have just made butter and buttermilk. Take out a piece of bread, an empty glass and enjoy!
Why is it runny?
Heat will cause your chantilly cream to be runny, even if it previously had the perfect consistency. If for example, you decide to pipe your chantilly cream, you might notice that you can pipe amazing shapes in the beginning but that it slowly becomes harder and harder to form a proper shape. The heat from your hands is actually warming up the cream, making it runny.
Mixing at very high speed will also tend to warm up the cream faster so don’t try to rush it! Slow your mixing speed down!
This could also be caused by the temperature in your kitchen: too hot and you might end up with a runny mess.
And finally, the temperature of your dessert will also play a role so make sure it’s not right out of the oven when topping with your chantilly cream.
Solution: Try to keep the cream cold at all times. You can put your mixing bowl in another bowl filled with ice cubes. And you could use gelatin to stabilize your cream.
Why does it weep?
You might notice liquid dripping out of your chantilly cream when it’s been sitting in the refrigerator. This won’t be as noticeable if you used cream with a fat content higher than 35%.
Solution: If there isn’t too much liquid, you can simply whisk it a little to bring it back into shape. But chantilly cream is generally best served immediately. If you are planning on using it a later stage, consider using a stabilizer such as gelatin to prevent weeping. You could also put the whipped cream in a fine-mesh strainer that is placed over another bowl to collect the liquid like Cook’s Illustrated used to do.
And that’s it! Hopefully the explanations will be useful to you. I personally found the science behind making chantilly so fascinating. I had no idea that the fat content of the cream was so important! And now I always refrigerate my bowl and whisk! Making chantilly cream is really easy once you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. So I hope you’ll give it a go!
1Corriher, S. O. (2008). Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. Scribner.
2Gisslen, W. (2005). Professional baking (4th ed.). Wiley.