I’ve seen claims that, while you can replace heavy cream with the proper proportions of milk and butter in recipes that don’t require whipping, the mixture will not form stiff peaks when whipped, even if it contains the same milkfat percentage as heavy whipping cream (>35%). However, offhand I don’t know why this would be so, and I can’t find an explanation of the claim.

I’ve used milk and butter to stand in perfectly well for cream in things like sauces or drinks, but I’ve never tried whipping it. If it’s not possible, why? Does it have something to do with the proportion of protein, fat, and water? Does the process of churning butter break down protein/fat structures that are required for holding peaks? Or is it not impossible, but simply difficult or time-consuming to get the butter to emulsify properly back into the milk and cool to the point that it can hold aeration?

3 Answers 3


Heavy whipping cream is homogenized as @myklbykl mentions. That means the fat molecules are pretty evenly dispersed throughout the liquid parts, giving you a smooth mixture instead of one that separates.

When you whip cream, you don't just incorporate air. You also agitate those fat molecules and they start sticking together. As long as you keep whipping vigorously, the fat molecules Wil Form a matrix within which the tiny bubbles of air and liquid get trapped, making a foam. If you keep beating, all the fat globs together, and that's where you get butter and traditionally buttermilk.

So if you add butter to the milk, even if you melt it- it's already done. The fat was already beaten and globbed together completely. You won't be able to get that matrix to form again since it's already been completely whipped.

And unfortunately you can't homogenize the fat and liquid back together. It requires special machinery. I actually tried once because I was young and the internet lied to me. End result was me crying over a big bowl of milk with lots of tiny butter chunks in it.

  • 1
    It's not so much molecules as fat globules that get broken apart to form a structure similar to a cell membrane around the air bubbles - these then join together and stay stuck forming the "whipped cream" texture. A smaller scale of what happens when you fill a sink with water and dish-washing detergent. It also needs to be cold enough that these thin fat layers set/crystallize creating the stable structure - hence you can't whip warm cream. Butter has lost the liposphere stage already and these are very hard to form mechanically without specialized equipment.
    – bob1
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 8:17

No. You'd have to be able to fully homogenize the butter and milk back together first, which you're not going to be able to do. You can melt butter and add it to milk to make heavy cream for some cooking needs, but it won't whip. Half and half will whip if you get it cold enough, but it's not going to be nearly as stable as whipping cream.

  • This still doesn’t explain or source why…are you saying it’s just the fat globule size that’s the issue? If that’s the case, then it certainly makes sense that I wouldn’t be able to do it at home (haven’t got an industrial homogeniser handy!)
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 22:55

You can see this video: https://youtu.be/aVQJYCs3Elc

I experienced it myself. Yes, we can reconstitute cream from milk and butter and it can be whipped to soft peak. Unfortunately, we can't whip it to stiff peak for frosting but I still could use it for topping and making mousse or no bake cheesecake... that's very nice!

  • I'm paranoid after the internet lied to me as a child, but this seems real? I did not use a blender back then. Since you tried it yourself, did you try to get it to stiff peak? And if so what happened? Also, this would be a stronger answer if you described the procedure from the video in case the link dies. I couldn't upvote at first because I didn't have time to sit through the video.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 14:48

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