When I was little, my parents used to make me and my brother hot fudge sundaes for special desserts. We'd heat up the little jar of hot fudge, crush the peanuts and get out the sprinkles and some days, we'd make our own whipped cream. We had one of those little metal eggbeaters that is at least 30 years old, and with a little bit of heavy whipping cream + elbow grease (figurative, not literal), light, refreshing, and sweet whipped cream would emerge.
My Rockwell childhood notwithstanding, homemade whipped cream is easy to make and delicious, lovely on top of hot chocolate, ice cream, cupcakes, or a spoon. I made some tonight, after trying (and mostly failing) to replicate the kind of deliciously frothy and airy frosting so beloved by neighborhood bakeries (think you need to add gelatin?). However, it was the kind of mistake I could live with, living with a bowl full of sweet wonderfulness.
Whipped cream is basically cream mixed with air--the tiny bubbles forming a semi-stable foam (yeah Internet). It's sort of like when you blow milk bubbles and they fill up the whole glass, except the fat and protein in the cream allows the bubbles to get smaller and smaller and pile on top of each other more and more. Meringue works in the same way, although it's much more of a headache to make.
There are basically two approaches to making whipped cream: the easy way and the hard way. The hard way consists of taking a whisk and continuously beating the cream for upwards of five full minutes. The easy way is sticking a bowl full of cream in a mixer. Because I already did my workout today (Lucille Roberts what what!), I went the easy way, using my big beautiful mixer that Steve and Jenna gave me after they did that whole marriage thing and realized that neither one of them bakes. If you do want to learn how to do it the ol' fashioned way, take a look at this instructional video from one of the wikiHow people.
Because it's best to whip cold cream in a cold bowl, I stuck everything (except not the fancy mixer) into the freezer for about 15 minutes. If you're mixing by hand you can get two metal bowls, fill one with ice, put the other bowl on top, and freeze both before mixing. Starting on a low speed, I gradually mixed the cream, adding a dash of vanilla for taste and a little bit of confectioner's sugar to make it stiffer. I worked up to high speed, stopping once the cream was peaking and near the consistency of freshly-made butter (side note: if you kept mixing, you would actually get butter). Unplug the mixer, pull out the bowl, and voila! Freshly made whipped cream, ready to be a dessert top or unsavory prop in a bad teen movie. Enjoy!
heavy whipping cream, left to sit in the fridge for 2-4 days
vanilla for taste
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
Place cream and mixing bowl in freezer for 10-20 minutes
Add cream, vanilla, and sugar to bowl
Begin mixing at lowest speed until the surface is foamy
Gradually increase speed for about 3-4 minutes
Whip for about 30 seconds on highest speed, then gradually decrease speed
Stop mixing when cream form stiff peaks and whisk makes tracks in cream
Best served immediately, although unchilled will last for several hours before reverting back into a liquid; to keep for longer store in fridge and lightly whip before using