For cream-of-the-crop cooking and baking, you need to use the right kind of cream.
Carton of heavy whipping cream
Credit: Meredith

What Is Cream?

Cream is the layer of fat skimmed from milk before it's homogenized. Depending on the amount of butterfat, cream can be classified as anything from half-and-half (10.5 percent to 18 percent butterfat) to clotted or Devon cream (55 percent or more). When baking, though, it's the creams in between these that matter the most. Read on to learn the difference between whipping cream and heavy cream, and when to use different kinds of cream in your recipes.

What Is Heavy Cream?

Heavy cream, also known as heavy whipping cream, doubles in volume and holds its shape when whipped, making it the perfect topper for desserts. It's also the best choice for recipes that call for piping cream from a pastry bag.

Heavy cream has slightly more butterfat than whipping cream (36 percent versus 30 percent), and each cup of heavy whipping cream contains more than 800 calories and 80 grams of fat. Try heavy cream in cream puffs, creamed peas, or zabaglione. And of course, don't forget the whipped cream for trifles, ice cream sundaes, and pies.

What Is Whipping Cream?

At 30 percent butterfat, whipping cream is just rich enough to set, but produces a lighter, less-sturdy whipped cream. It performs best as a light topping or filling, as in this summer fruit salad or lemon peach parfait. To mimic the thickening effect of whipping cream in soups or sauces, try low-fat cream cheese or a mixture of one cup of 1 percent milk and one tablespoon of cornstarch. For topping or filling sweets, fat-free half-and-half is an appropriate substitute.