A world without whipped cream would be a lot less enticing. Of all cake fillings, whipped cream is the simplest and fastest to prepare. Heavy cream, due to its high butterfat content (36%) whips a little better than whipping cream, which has 30%. Light cream, also called coffee cream, does not whip.
For serving with sweet, intensely flavored desserts, whipped cream is perfect as is. The French invariably add a touch of sugar and vanilla and call it Chantilly cream. You can add other extracts, brandies, spices, coffee or chocolate.
An electric mixer works best. For small amounts, a hand-held electric mixer is best because you can use a small bowl so the beaters sit right in the cream. This gives better control and reduces risk of overwhipping.
Before whipping, chill the cream, bowl and beaters; warm cream may not whip. Begin at medium-high speed, moving the beater around in the bottom of the bowl to whip the cream evenly. As it thickens, reduce the speed so you can stop quickly.
For a topping or an accompaniment, whip it just until it can hold its shape on a spoon. Beat it to medium peaks for blending with other ingredients and to fairly stiff peaks for spreading on cakes. Cream does not whip to peaks as stiff as beaten egg whites; beating too long will turn it to butter.
You can add sugar and dry flavorings such as instant coffee or vanilla powder at the start, while liquid flavorings are best added at the end in small amounts so they won’t soften the cream too much. Whipped cream is best served promptly, as it does not retain its shape for long.
For an everyday treat, use whipped milk. You make it with the whipping attachment of a hand-held immersion blender, which can whip only cream or nonfat milk. Instead of using a bowl, you whip the milk in a tall jar or glass and serve it right away.