Whether poured over a bowl of fresh strawberries or added to a sauce, cream is one of nature’s most delicious treats and life just wouldn’t be the same without it! Cream is yellowish fatty component of un-homogenized milk that tends to accumulate at the surface. The amount of butterfat will determine how well it will whip and how stable it will be. Higher fat creams tend to taste better, have a richer texture, and don’t curdle as easily when used in cooking. Understanding their differences is key to selecting the right cream for your needs. Cream is obtained by skimming the top layer of butterfat from milk, and it is categorized by its fat content below.
Since each country has its own standards, the term “cream” may mean different products. In fact, the name of a product will vary according to its milk fat content. In the United States, a dairy product must contain at least 18% milk fat to be called cream. While in Europe, the term “cream” only applies to a product with a minimum milk fat content of 30%.
Pasteurized and Ultra-pasteurized:
Creams will generally be labeled pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized. Pasteurized will provide a better flavor, will whip up fluffier, and will hold up longer. As ultra-pasteurized whipping cream has been heated to above 280 degrees F. to extend its shelf life, it is more temperamental when it comes to whipping. Ultra-Pasteurized Heavy Cream “will not work” if peaks or frothing are required in your recipe.
Varieties of Cream
Channel Island extra thick double cream
A rich, thick cream that is made with milk from Guernsey and Jersey cows, it can be used straight from the tub. It has a fat content of 48%. Uses: Spoon over puddings or fruit or add to sauces for a rich, creamy taste. Also ideal for using to fill sponge cakes or gateaux. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date.
Is another name for vanilla-flavored whipped cream. Note: In Italy, crema chantilly is made by folding whipped cream into crema pasticcera (pastry cream) to make a wonderfully decadent concoction.
Clotted cream is the thickest and richest type available and is traditionally made in Devon or Cornwall (also known as Devonshire or Devon). It is gently scalded to produce its golden crust. It has a spoonable consistency and does not need to be whipped before serving. It has a fat content of 55%- 60% and is not recommended for cooking because it tends to separate on heating. Uses: Traditionally served on scones with jam, also good on fresh fruit and ice cream. A decadent accompaniment to desserts, used in place of regular/pure cream. Ideal as a filling in desserts, and included in sauces and risottos. A great partner to a fresh berry assortment. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and consume by the use by date. It can be frozen for up to 1 month.
This is fresh cream which is treated with a bacteria culture that thickens it and gives it a slightly sour taste. It is suitable for spooning, is widely used in French cookery and is becoming increasingly popular in Britain. It has a fat content of 39% and cannot be whipped. For a healthier alternative choose the half fat version. Uses: Crème fraîche is ideal for serving with fruit and puddings, it can also be used for making salad dressings and dips. It can be used in cooking to add a creamy taste to curries, sauces and casseroles. Crème Fraiche is valued by chefs as it is stable when heated and has a more refined flavour. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. It cannot be frozen.
This is the most versatile type of fresh cream, it can be used as it is or whipped. It contains 48% fat. Uses: It can be used for pouring over fruit and puddings, used in cooking or whipped and incorporated into dishes or served separately. Whipped double cream can be spooned or piped on to desserts and cakes. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. It can be frozen for up to 2 months when lightly whipped.
Extra thick single cream
This has the same fat content as single cream (18%) but it has been homogenised to produce a thick spoonable consistency similar to double: it cannot be whipped. Uses: Serve with fruit and desserts. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. It is unsuitable for freezing.
Available at Christmas, Brandy, Calvados, and cinnamon creams are made from a combination of double cream, sugar and alcohol. Uses: Serve with Christmas pudding, apple tart or any chocolate or nut pudding. Spoon over warm mince pies or use to fill brandy snaps. A spoonful of flavoured cream in hot chocolate is delicious. To store: Keep in the fridge and consume by the use by date. Once opened use within 3 days.
Goat’s milk double cream
Made from pasteurised goat’s milk from St Helen’s Farm in Yorkshire, goat’s milk double cream has an ice white appearance and tastes smooth and mild. It is suitable for cow’s milk-free and vegetarian diets. Uses: It can be used for whipping, pouring or simply spooning on to desserts. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. It can be frozen for up to 2 months when lightly whipped.
Is a mixture of half cream and half milk. The milk fat content is 10-12 percent. This cream cannot be whipped. In the United States, half and half is a mix of 1/2 whole milk and ½ cream and is typically used in coffee. Half-and-half does not whip, but it can be used in place of whipping (heavy) cream in many recipes for less fat cooking and may replace whole homogenized milk (3.25% m.f.) in some recipes for a fuller, richer flavor.
Has the highest amount of milk fat, which is usually between 36 and 40 percent in the United States and as high as 48 percent elsewhere. In the U.S., it is mostly found in gourmet food stores. This cream whips denser than whipping cream. Whips up well and holds its shape. Doubles in volume when whipped.
Long Life Cream (UHT)
Long life cream has undergone ultra heat treatment (UHT) to extend its shelf life. It is heated at high temperatures for a short period to stabilise it. Available in cartons, long life usually contains 35% milk fat. It will whip well if chilled and can be spooned over desserts or used in cooking. Also available in reduced fat.
Has a fat content over 40%, and is generally not available in retail stores. It is primarily used in professional food service.
Convenient packaging for whipped cream (with a minimum of 25% milk fat.! A harmless nitrous oxide gas propellant dissipates rapidly when the pack’s valve is depressed. It delivers already whipped cream to cakes and desserts.
Reduced fat extra thick cream
With 50% less fat than standard thick double cream but all the delicious flavour, this variety contains 24% fat. It is not suitable for whipping or boiling. Uses: Serve with fruit or puddings or use in cooking for a rich, creamy flavour. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. It is unsuitable for freezing.
Reduced fat single cream
With 25% less fat than standard single cream (it has 12% fat) this is an ideal low fat alternative. It is not suitable for whipping or boiling. Uses: In sauces, soups and dressings and coffee and to pour over fruit. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. It is unsuitable for freezing.
Single cream is a thin cream traditionally used for pouring and for enriching cooked dishes, it contains 18%-20% fat. Also known as light cream. Uses: For pouring over fruit and puddings and in cooking, especially in soups and sauces although it should never be allowed to boil. It is not suitable for whipping. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. It cannot be frozen unless it is incorporated into a cooked dish.
This is a tangy variety made from fresh single cream. To sour, a culture is added and the cream is heated to about 20°C for 12–14 hours. The lactic acid produced in this process gives a slightly sour taste and a thicker than normal consistency. It is commercially soured by adding a culture – similar to that used in the production of yogurt. It has a fat content of 18% and cannot be whipped. Uses: With its slightly tart flavor, sour cream is often used in soups, sauces and dressings, casseroles and cakes or served on vegetables. Good for savoury dishes such as beef stroganoff and as a base for savoury dips. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. It cannot be frozen.
This cream will whip to double its original volume, which makes it perfect for adding to dishes where a light result is needed. Whipping cream contains 30%- 38% fat. Uses: Perfect for mousses and soufflés, filling cakes and gateaux, decorating trifles and topping fruit and ice cream. Float whipped cream on coffee or hot chocolate. Once whipped the cream does not hold its volume for long so it should be used straight away. To store: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, once opened use within 3 days and consume by the use by date. Whipping cream can be frozen for up to 2 months when lightly whipped.