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Cooking With Cream: What Is It and What Are the Different Types?

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Cream is an important ingredient in numerous dishes and recipes, but how much do you actually know about it? The first fact you should understand is that there are numerous types of cream—it comes in a wide variety of types, flavors, and textures. Used in cooking, cream is frequently incorporated into soups, desserts, dinner dishes, coffees, and more.

Cream is a milk product that has a rich flavor that feels smooth in the mouth with what some describe as a velvety texture. It is often an accompaniment to sweets or desserts to help tone down extreme richness and sweetness. For example, a restaurant might serve a slice of dark chocolate cheesecake with a dollop of cream on the side. The flavor of the cream cuts down the richness of the cheesecake, which allows it to be more delicious to consume.

What Is Cream?

Cream is a liquid that contains the fat of fresh whole milk. Major corporations that sell cream products get cream from using centrifuges. In a centrifuge, milk is rotated repeatedly, separating the cream so that it floats on top and can be scooped out. Commercially sold cream is then typically pasteurized to protect consumers from getting sick. During pasteurization, cream is heated to kill organisms that are harmful for human consumption like viruses, molds, bacteria, yeasts, and protozoans.

What Are the Different Types of Creams?

There are numerous varieties of cream sold in stores all over the world. Each type has its own uses, flavors, and textures. This section will discuss a number of cream varieties and their uses.

Different Types of Creams and Their Percent Fat Content

TypePercent Fat

half and half


light cream


heavy cream


double cream

43-48% and up to 60%

sour cream


light sour cream

9% or less

creme fraiche


clotted cream


ice cream

10% or higher to be considered ice cream




> 80%



Half and Half

Half and half is a type of cream that is half cream and half milk. Half and half is most often used in coffee. It is not as thick as cream and can be used to substitute milk in recipes. It is a little thicker than milk and can be used to make creamy pasta sauces, gravies, and pan sauces.

Light Cream

Light cream has a higher fat content that half and half. It is also commonly used in coffees, sauces, and gravies. Light cream is also used to give moisture to desserts by being poured over pound cakes and crumbles.

Heavy Whipping Cream

Heavy cream is often used to make more decadent dishes and desserts. It can be used in soups and sauces. Heavy cream is used in custards. Sometimes called whipping cream, this can be whipped to become whipped cream. It is very thick and rich when added to recipes.

Double Cream

Double cream is so thick that it stays the same shape once removed from its container. If a cook tried to whip it like whipped cream, it would not. Instead, it would break up.

Sour Cream

Sour cream is produced when bacterial cultures are added to cream to produce lactic acid resulting in a thickening of the cream and the development of a sour flavor.


Light Sour Cream

Light sour cream is produced in the same way as sour cream except it has a lower fat content making it a more desirable ingredient in health-conscious recipes like salad dressings.

Crème Fraîche

Crème fraîche is often compared to sour cream and greek yogurt. It is a thick cream with an almost custard-like consistency. It is less sour than sour cream.

Clotted Cream

Clotted Cream is made with unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk. It is a spread similar to both butter and whipped cream. It has a crème fraîche texture and is often served in the UK with scones.


Mascarpone is a type of cheese made with cream similar to cream cheese but less tangy. It has a similar texture as ricotta cheese. It is often used as an alternative to whipped cream, sour cream, or cream cheese.

How to Make Your Own Cream From Milk

Fun Cream Trivia

  • If cream is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit it will whip. If it is hotter than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it will turn into butter if it is churned.
  • National Whipped Cream Day is January 5th.
  • It is difficult to find clotted cream in the United States because it is illegal to sell raw milk.
  • Rjome is the Norwegian version of sour cream.
  • Smetana is the Central and Eastern European version of sour cream.
  • Whipped cream originated in 1549 Italy.
Hand cream gets its name from milk cream due to its similar color and look.

Hand cream gets its name from milk cream due to its similar color and look.