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My mother is confounded by whipping-cream. Some 20 years ago she started making cream-puffs which quickly became her pastry calling card. They always came out great and were always a hit. Some 15 years later, she cannot seem to make whipped-cream anymore.

She still uses the same bowl, same mixer, same whipping-cream (Nutriwhip whipping-cream) and does everything the same way as she used to, but no matter what, the cream stays soft and will not stiffen or form peaks. (The kitchen is not too hot.)

Some explanations that we have considered include:

  • Changes to the quality/ingredients of the cream (despite the box being the same)
  • Adding powdered sugar to the liquid cream before whipping (like she always used to do)
  • Refrigerator not cold enough (but then, freezer not cold enough either?)
  • Whipping for too long causes heat build-up due to friction, which melts it (doesn’t excessive beating turn it into butter?)

She tried using different bowl, a chilled bowl, a different mixer, (even made me try by hand once!) She has tried a different brands of cream (35% Beatrice and Lactancia whipping-creams), but gets the same results. One time, I tried adding the powdered sugar after whipping the cream, and it was much better than what she normally gets now, but still not as stiff as compared to the past. Using a whisk on the mixer in place of the normal beaters (which was what she always used before, as my and my sister’s tongues can attest to), seems to help, but even that is only temporary.

She has even tried putting the whipped cream in the freezer, and while it does harden, once it has thawed enough to pipe, it gets runny very quickly (in the past, she would be able to pipe the cream onto baked goods, leave them in the fridge for a day, then drive them to somewhere else without the cream’s edges softening).

She is baffled because she had made whipped-cream for various baked-goods countless times, but until a few years ago, she never had any problems, then suddenly, it never works anymore. I found a few related questions here, but they don’t quite apply (they talk about different bowls, different temperatures, etc., but like I said, it used to work).

What could be the problem? How can she get whipped-cream to stay hard like it used to?


Exact brands and variations used:

Nutriwhip Beatrice whipping-cream enter image description here

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Do you know somebody else who can whip these brands of cream in their kitchen? Friends, neighbours? Also, it is easier to whip cream which includes carrageenan, is it listed on your packages? –  rumtscho Feb 28 '12 at 19:12
    
Can you describe her process? –  rfusca Feb 28 '12 at 19:21
    
Also, the searches I get for nutriwhip indicate its a non-dairy whipped topping. Not something you're gonna rewhip. Now, the whipping cream should work, but especially if its got carrageenan like rumtscho says. –  rfusca Feb 28 '12 at 19:23
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Has the environment changed? You dismissed different temperature variation - what about humidity? Anything at all that changes the air that's getting whipped in? –  Jefromi Feb 28 '12 at 21:37
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It's probable that all brands have changed from HTST pasteurized to ultra-pasteurized, which makes it have much longer shelf life, but slighty worse taste and whipping ability (source). ... but it still whips to butter, not liquid, if you go to far. –  derobert Feb 29 '12 at 4:21

8 Answers 8

The brands that used to work may have changed their formulation in response to carageenan shortages. If they use less emulsifier, a lower quality product, or different emulsifiers such as guar gum, locust bean, or xanthan gum, the stability of the whipped cream may suffer. If the cream you can get isn't stable enough, you can add unflavored gelatin to stabilize it. Method is in 'Joy of Cooking', or here.

May2013: Looks like carrageenan is still on the USDA organic list Shortage has eased, but whipping problems could still be due to variations in quality of supply.

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Wow, I had no idea there was a carageenan shortage! The things you don't hear about in the American news ... –  FuzzyChef Feb 29 '12 at 6:40

Cream as per Wikipedia: "Cream is a dairy product that is composed of the higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk before homogenization.". It should not contain any other additive or sugar etc.

To test cream: Place 100 ml of cream from a fridge, into a cocktail shaker or similar shaped container with tight fitting lid. Shake back and forth (cocktail style) for 2 to 5 minutes (depends on your strength), you should have smooth whipped cream. If you shake for another minute or two it will separate into butter and whey

If your cream source does not whip with this process, it may not actually be cream

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I live in NZ and have never had any problem with whipping cream. Our cream here doesn't contain any additives to help it harden like carrageenan.

However, when I used the normal whipping cream in Canada, I had the same problem beating it to stiff peaks. It just didn't do it and I was unsure as to why was the case. Then when I checked the box, it had something else added to it (don't remember what). I was very annoyed as the texture wasn't right and not what I had expected it to be. The texture of the cream was much nicer and easier to work with when nothing else was added to it. I am surprised as to why they need to add stuff to even plain cream to help get better results.

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Do you remember if it was a chemical or natural item or anything (e.g., lettered-acronym or words)? –  Synetech Jul 27 '12 at 3:04

Nutriwhip is NOT cream, but aside from that fact, whipping cream (of any type) requires the proper hardware. It is possible, judging by your explanation, that your mom's mixer is simply old and no longer able to whip enough air into the product at a high enough speed. Get a fine gauge manual whisk and test whipping the product. If it whips...buy your mom a new era mixer!

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Getting it to whip isn’t the problem, getting it to stay whipped is. Like I said, she has already tried different mixers (electric-hand, hand-whisk, and stand-mixer). Using a wire whisk gave the best results and it whipped up quickly into peaks, but it still melted much faster than in the old days. It has nothing to do with the mixer. –  Synetech Mar 10 at 16:38

I'll go for the first reason. Quality of cream is crucial in order to make good whipping-cream. Try different brands, until you find the one that satisfies you. This too happened to me many times when I used bad-quality whipping cream. If the cream persists to whip incorrectly, you could try adding a small amount of corn or potato starch to the cream, although it isn't necessary. Also be sure to whip the cream right after taking it out of the fridge (it should be cold but not freezing) and that the bowl is also cold. I wouldn't worry about whipping for too long. Just continue whipping until you'll get the expected result.

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up vote 0 down vote accepted

Tests

She has tried the frozen-bowl trick (which she never used to have to do), but the cream only stays whipped and forms peaks for a while, then starts to melt (far too) quickly.

Theory

One theory she had was that she was whipping it for too long, which caused heat build up due to friction which in turn melted the cream. This seems to be borne out by the fact that using a wire-whip tends to give desired results more often than using flat-beaters.

Facts

Of course this isn’t a 100% answer or solution because:

  • She used to use flat-beaters exclusively in the past without issue
  • Even when using a whisk to whip it, it can still melt and fall flat quickly sometimes

Supplemental

In addition, I noticed that she seems to be putting more icing sugar in her whipped-cream than in the past. This likely changes, and specifically lowers, the melting point of the cream just like adding salt to water. We have not done extensive, conclusive testing, but a couple times when she remembered to put in less sugar, it did seem to whip better. This may or may not have been due to the lower sugar content, but it certainly is worth trying if you are having trouble whipping cream.

Conclusion

These observations and tests seem to indicate that the material contents of the cream have changed since the past, and even today, can vary from box to box.

Either way, a wire whisk and chilled bowl as well as reducing sugar (and possibly dyes, and other additives) are the best shot at getting cream to whip.

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Last week she had me help her make mini-cheesecakes again (I love those!) because she can barely move her arms anymore. We made whipped-cream for them but she added the powdered sugar and vanilla after whipping the cream, and I definitely noted that the plain cream was nice and stiff. I believe more than ever that it is due to the excessive sugar—powdered sugar actually feels *oily*—that she was using in recent years (thankfully no diabetes). –  Synetech Aug 11 '13 at 17:50

To whip cream, you need chilled butterfat (around 35-40%) called whipping, heavy, or double cream. As you beat the cream, it forms bubbles and the proteins denature, with some parts staying in the water and some parts staying in the fat, until you end up with a film of solid fat and protein that traps the air inside, with the water in between the bubbles. If you beat the cream too much, you can turn the whole thing inside out, with the water trapped inside films of fat and protein, and the air gets out (turns runny). Don't add sugar or flavor until you start getting a stiff whip or the sugar will disrupt the trapping of air bubbles. To get a stiffer peak or cream, you can add a small amount of unflavored gelatin to the cream as you first start to mix and whip.

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Buy pure whipping cream with no additives. It will work like the olden days, pure and simple. It won't weep an separate. It took me a few years to figure out. I am allergic to all legumes ie: guar gum etc. and carrageenan.

Good luck.

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The author states that the ingredient statement on the cream hasn't changed. –  sourd'oh Oct 4 '13 at 13:42
    
Pure whipping cream might be better for people with allergies, but the gums are in there exactly because they make whipping easier. If somebody has trouble with the consistency, choosing pure cream will make it worse. –  rumtscho Oct 4 '13 at 17:14

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