What's the Difference between Heavy Cream and Whipping Cream

Updated on February 1, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Cream (c) Marye Audet 2009
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Cream (c) Marye Audet 2009

Heavy cream vs. whipping cream; did you ever wonder if there was a difference and what it might be? Are they interchangeable? Are they two terms for the same product?

Heavy Cream vs. Whipping Cream: The Breakdown

Heavy cream is the part of the milk that carries the fat. In the days before milk was homogenized the cream rose to the top of the milk over a period of a few hours. Many older Americans can remember milk in bottles with a thick layer of luscious cream on the top. When the cream was skimmed off the milk the remaining liquid was referred to as "skimmed milk".

In the United States regulations state that heavy cream must have a fat content of 30 to 40 percent or more. This gives it a thick, rich texture and a buttery mouth feel. When heavy cream is an ingredient in a recipe it will add these characteristics to the recipe in direct proportion to the percentage of cream to the other ingredients.

Heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are essentially the same thing. For the freshest, richest flavor you want to check the ingredients,however. You want a heavy cream with a short shelf life. Ultra-pasteurized cream has been heated to very high temperatures to make it last longer. During this process it loses flavor and some of its texture characteristics.

When you look at the ingredients on the side of the carton it should list only cream and possibly carrageenan, a seaweed derivative that helps stabilize the cream. If you can buy local, raw cream from a local creamery you are in for a real treat. If not, try to at least get organic cream. It is the least likely to have unnecessary additives and sugars in it.

Whipping Cream

You may also see a product in your grocer's dairy case that is labeled whipping cream or light whipping cream. This means that the cream has a lower fat content, often in the 30 to 34 percent range. Cream that has less than 30 percent fat will not whip.

Sometimes this type of cream will have skim milk listed atone of the ingredients and it will have many additives and stabilizers. You may save a little money with this but the end result in your recipe will not be as rich.

How to Whip Cream

Freezing Cream

So, you hit an awesome clearance at the grocer and bought a ton of heavy cream. Can it be frozen? Sure! You can freeze heavy cream or whipping cream up to four months. Make sure the container is airtight so that the cream does not pick up flavors from freezer odors.

To thaw it just place it in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed you can use the cream as you would fresh. You do need to know that the cream will take much longer to whip and you may need to add a little stabilizer to get it to whip up. You can use a teaspoon of vanilla instant pudding quite successfully for this.

Once cream is frozen and then thawed it can develop a grainy texture. This is from fat globules in the cream. Because of this it may be best to use the cream in sauces, soups, and cooked dishes once it has been frozen – or, freeze it in ice cream!

Choose Quality

Heavy cream vs. whipping cream; which you choose depends a lot on the result you want from your recipe. A cream with a high fat content will always be silkier than a cream with less fat. Also consider that some companies are using skim milk and stabilizers in whipping cream; something that is not allowed under the heavy cream label.

Always read your labels carefully and stick with organic cream whenever possible. You will be surprised at the difference in quality that you get.

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 Marye Audet


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      • happypuppy profile image

        happypuppy 6 years ago

        Thanks! I just learned the difference between the two now. Great hub.

      • profile image

        Cameron 6 years ago

        Raw dairy products ftw!

      • profile image

        feelhungry 6 years ago

        Hm... I just knew that they are different. Really thanks for the information.

      • tlpoague profile image

        Tammy 6 years ago from USA

        I found a difference when using fresh cream from a cow and store bought cream when making our ice cream. The fresh cow cream seemed richer and held its flavor. This is a great hub! I didn't know about looking for certain ingredients on the carton. Thanks!

      • Marye Audet profile image

        Marye Audet 6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas


      • profile image

        Debbie 6 years ago

        Heavy cream or whipping cream for a silky smooth ganache

        Which is better?

      • Sun-Girl profile image

        Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

        Well written article which really made me to salivate because of my love for ice cream.

      • Research Analyst profile image

        Research Analyst 7 years ago

        Whip cream is good on apple pie, my favorite, I have not tried heavy creams, even though I know someone who likes to use it in their tea.

      • Hello, hello, profile image

        Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

        Thank you for the news that you can freeze cream. Great hub.

      • HealthyHanna profile image

        HealthyHanna 7 years ago from Utah

        Thanks! I have often wondered what the difference was. We watch our fats, so I always use whipping cream if I need cream for toppings, otherwise I use half and half.

        Did you know that if you whip your whipping cream with powdered sugar it will stay good for use as a whipped topping and not separate for a couple of days?