Hi, and welcome to one of my fundamental posts, how to whip cream by hand.
Yes, you can use a mixer or any number of other tools to whip cream, but to have the most control over the texture of your whipped cream, whipping cream by hand is the way to go.
If you love this kind of information, you may enjoy some of my other fundamental posts like how to make old fashioned fudge, how to keep cinnamon swirl bread from separating, and how to choose the right kind of flour.
Why Whip Cream by Hand?
I’ve whipped gallons of cream by hand (a little at at time!), and I promise you that it’s not hard to do.
Whipping by hand allows you to control the speed at which you whisk and to vary that speed as your cream gets closer to being done.
Since you build up all the bubbles more slowly, this will result in a more stable whipped cream.
Two Secrets About Whipping Cream
It seems as though most “recipes” for whipped cream start with either a big old stand mixer or at least a hand mixer. For large amounts of cream, that’s fine.
But you can whip up to a cup or a cup and a half of cream with no more than your balloon whisk, a good, sturdy bowl, and some elbow grease in about 2 minutes.
Here’s a secret: warmer cream whips faster than cold cream.
I’m not saying this is a good thing. It’s just something you should know.
The purpose of getting everything–the cream, bowl, beaters, etc–super cold before whipping has more to do with the plasticity of the butter fat in the cream than it has to do with the speed of whipping.
Since butterfat is firm at refrigerator temperatures it takes longer to whip air into it, but the resulting foam will be much more stable.
Whipping room temperature cream will yield a thick cream very quickly, but since you haven’t had a lot of time to pump air into it through whisking action, it will collapse almost as quickly.
You also run way more of a risk of ending up with butter when whipping warmer cream.
Here’s another secret: a whisk with more wires/tines will whip up cream or egg whites faster than one with fewer.
Also, a rounder shape is better for whipping than a more compact shape. The more wires, the more you can agitate the cream and whip air into it.
A big round whisk will also help you get more air into your cream more quickly than a whisk with a more compact shape. If you are looking for just one whisk to own, buy a balloon whisk.
Some people swear by a cage whisk, and you can certainly use one to whip cream by hand. I don’t think cage whisks are nearly as versatile as a balloon whisk is, though.
How to Whip Cream by Hand
- Pour cold cream into your cold bowl. Don’t chill the whisk because you’ll just end up freezing your hand while you’re whisking.
- To stabilize the bowl on the counter, wrap a damp towel around the base of your bowl. It’s like a little nest for the bowl that it can settle down into. You can also use a piece of that non-slip shelf liner, although I actually prefer using a damp towel.
- Add a pinch of fine salt and just a bit of sugar. Maybe 1 Tablespoon per cup to start. You can always whisk in a bit more. Why the salt? Just as salted butter tastes better on toast than unsalted butter, adding some salt to your whipping cream will make it taste better too. You won’t need a lot, but you will be amazed at the depth of buttery flavor you can achieve with just a tiny pinch of salt.
- Start whisking slowly and steadily. You don’t really even need to pull the whisk up out of the cream. Just keep it moving steadily back and forth across the bottom of the bowl.
I often whisk side to side. You can also whisk back and forth. I don’t suggest doing a lot of “round and round” whisking until the cream starts to really thicken up.
Going around and around with your whisk just ends up pushing the cream ahead of the whisk rather than allowing the whisk to cut through the cream introducing air. You end up stirring rather than whisking, and the whole process will take longer.
- Once the cream starts to thicken up a bit, taste it. Add a bit of sugar if you think it needs it. You can also add a few drops of vanilla. Or some cinnamon. Or some other spice or extract that will complement whatever you’re putting it on.
- Continue to whisk, alternating back and forth and side to side when you get bored, but keep the cream moving and be pretty assertive with the whisking. You don’t have to break a sweat, but you want to whip the cream, not just massage it.
- Once the whisk starts leaving tracks in the cream, it will start to thicken up fairly quickly. At this point you can do some around and around whisking if you can’t help yourself. You can also lift the whisk up out of the bowl, whisking in a circle perpendicular to the surface of the cream. If that makes sense.
- Check the consistency of your cream every few turns of the whisk, pulling it straight up out of the cream and then turning it sideways to check on the peaks. I almost never take my cream to full stiff peaks–where the peak just points straight out to the side without any curling over. At that point there’s not much room for error. I generally stop when the peaks curl over a bit–medium to medium-firm peaks.
- And there you have it: how to whip cream by hand. Ta da!
How to Stabilize Whipped Cream
For most uses, just whipping cream with a pinch of salt, a little sugar, and some flavoring works great.
Sometimes you want the cream to hold up for a few days under refrigeration without weeping.
I have found the best way to do that is to whip some bloomed and melted gelatin into the cream. You can read how to make stabilized whipped cream in this post.
Sometimes Less is More
You can absolutely over-whip cream, although whipping cream by hand gives you more control so you probably won’t.
Still, you should know why it can happen.
When whipping cream by hand, most folks run into trouble by whipping their cream to very stiff peaks. That’s okay as long as all you’re going to do with it is plop it into a mug of hot chocolate or on top of some plum crisp.
There are two times when whipping cream to stiff peaks is not the best plan:
- when you are going to fold the whipped cream into something else like a mousse, cake batter, or pudding, or
- when you’re going to pipe the cream decoratively onto a cake, pie, or other dessert
In both cases, you run the risk of over-working your cream.
The act of folding the cream into another mixture and the act of pressing cream through a decorative piping tip both continue to work or “whip” the cream.
If you take the cream to very stiff peaks before folding or piping, you could end up with over-whipped-bordering-on-butter cream.
Give yourself a little wiggle room by whipping any cream that will be folded into another mixture to no more than medium-soft to medium peaks and whipping any cream that you’ll be piping onto something else to no more than medium-firm peaks.
Now that you know how to whip cream by hand, you should treat yourself to this button, and show everyone what a culinary badass you are!
Can I Whip Creme Fraiche or Mascarpone?
You can whip creme fraiche (homemade or store-bought) and mascarpone in exactly the same way as you whip cream.
With mascarpone, you want to get it to room temperature and then whisk it fairly gently as it will get grainy if you over-whisk.
You can also whip mascarpone and cream (or creme fraiche) together in the same bowl at the same time.
NOTE: creme fraiche and mascarpone both will start out very thick, thin out once you start whisking, and then thicken back up pretty quickly as you whip air into them.
Can I Whip Sour Cream?
You can’t whip sour cream, and you can’t add sour cream to liquid cream and expect it to whip up, but you can add some sour cream to already whipped cream without compromising its texture.
- Whip 1/2 cup cream until it peaks gently and then
- add 1/4 cup cold sour cream
- continue whisking until you get the desired consistency.
And there you have it. All the ins and outs of how to whip cream by hand.
If you have any questions about this post or questions about another baking fundamental, please shoot me an email. I’m happy to help!
Thanks for spending some time here today. I hope you’re leaving knowing how to whip cream by hand! And if you are, don’t forget to grab a Badass Button!
What to Serve Your Whipped Cream On
There are no shortage of ideas of what to serve your hand whipped cream with. Serve a meltingly tender whipping cream pound cake with a side of softly whipped cream. Whip up some cinnamon whipped cream to top a slice of brown sugar cinnamon pound cake.
Any pie would be happy to have a dollop or three of whipped cream on it. I think it’s especially dreamy on “plain” pies that don’t already call for whipped cream or meringue topping like chocolate chess pie or an old fashioned shoo fly pie or key lime pie.
And there you have it. Don’t forget your badass button!
Thanks for spending some time with me today.
Take care, and have a lovely day.