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I was going to make a dessert with whipped cream but events interfered and I now have a large (sealed) pot of double cream left in the fridge. My next opportunity to make the dessert will be next weekend when the cream will be about five days past its use by date.

Experience tells me that cream will still taste fine well past its use by date, so I am not worried the cream will taste sour. However I have never tried to whip cream that is past its sell by date. Googling has found sites with advice ranging from "it'll be fine" to "OMG throw it away now" so I'm no further on. The question Can sour cream be whipped? tells me that soured cream won't whip, but this cream is going to be nowhere near sour by next weekend.

Does anyone know if I'll face problems trying to whip it? If so I'll try to find another use for it or throw it away (though that seems a shame).

I should add that this is ordinary pasteurised (not UHT) double cream from a UK supermarket, so it's 48% fat, and it has not been opened so no bugs will have got in since pasteurisation.

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  • In the UK, is it a 'use by' or 'sell by' date on the package? I've used (including whipping) unopened heavy cream well past the sell by date on the carton with no issues whatsoever.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 13 at 14:38
  • @JonCuster it's a "sell by" date, and I've also found the sell by date to be conservative. But I've never tried whipping cream past its sell by date. Jul 13 at 14:39
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If cream is still fresh enough to eat then it will whip just fine, there aren't any mechanisms at work which will prevent whipping. If it's been opened in the fridge for a few days it may thicken up a bit, I usually add a splash of whole milk to thin it out a bit or it can get a bit claggy.

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It depends on how the cream was treated. If it has buttered up, or is just on the cusp of either buttering or turning sour, you can no longer whip it, it will coalesce and curdle instead of creating a foaming. It is a gradual thing, you cannot say when a given batch of cream will whip well and when it will curdle. The most you can do is to note the relative probability of 'not whipping' compared to a cream that has been treated in a different manner.

These probabilities are, in increasing order of success:

  • raw milk from the cow, left to cream up
  • cream that has undergone traditional pasteurization, no further treatment
  • cream that has undergone some heavier pasteurization method, like UHT
  • cream that has been stabilized by microfiltration
  • cream that has had chemical stabilizers added (usually carrageenan)

The effect of the treatment interacts with the effect of the aging (the older the cream, the less likely it will whip - this effect exists even before the expiry date) and with how strictly you follow best practices when whipping.

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  • Thanks, it's regular pasteurised (not UHT) double cream from the supermarket and hasn't been opened. This is in the UK - I understand UK double cream has a higher fat content that in other parts of the world. I guess I need to try it and see what happens. Jul 12 at 15:54
  • @JohnRennie please do report back, I'm curious what the results will be.
    – Kat
    Jul 12 at 20:05
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    @Kat I hate to be the naysayer here, but the results are probably only interesting for John - no matter if his batch of cream whips or curdles, this is not predictive of whether some other batch of cream in some other person's kitchen will whip or curdle. It sometimes goes this way, sometimes the other.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 13 at 13:57
  • @rumtscho well it would prove the other answer wrong if it doesn't whip.
    – Kat
    Jul 13 at 14:44
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Just for the record, GdD was quite correct. The cream smelled and tasted fine, which is what I expected as the sell by dates are pretty conservatove in the UK. And indeed it whipped up just fine, even though it was seven days past its sell by date when I eventually got round to using it. This was using a hand whisk as well, not an electric mixer.

If anyone is interested this is what I used the whipped cream for. They are vol au vents filled with the cream and topped with what should have been a ganache but I put too much cream in so it was a chocolate sauce instead (sigh).

Cream vol au vents

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