You Can Turn Basic Whipped Cream Into the Best Cake Frosting with This Easy Trick
It’s no secret that freshly whipped cream goes hand-in-hand with almost every sweet delight under the sun. Pie, ice cream sundaes, cobbler, puddings, snack cakes, simple macerated fruit—they all benefit from a pile of fluffy, vanilla-kissed cream.
Beyond providing the perfect finishing touch in terms of aesthetics, whipped cream lends a certain sense of balance to the desserts it accompanies, making for a generally more enjoyable indulgence. It’s light in consistency and in sweetness, yet its airy form still rings voluptuous and rich. In short—whipped cream is too good to be true, and still, it is.
Until it’s not.
Alas, what makes freshly whipped cream beautiful also makes it incredibly fragile. Whipped cream—the product of literally whipping air into high-fat cream—is prone to deflate and weep and generally have a come-apart as the day goes on, especially if left out for a bit. (I, for one, can relate.) Even when properly stored in the refrigerator, you’ll notice your container of once airy and majestic whipped cream slouching back towards its original liquid state after a day or so. I assume that’s what makes prepared whipped topping products like Reddi-wip so appealing—they’re ever-aerated and always ready to go!
One of the key differences between the canned product and your homemade whipped cream is that what you buy in the grocery store contains stabilizers. The good news is that you too can stabilize your whipped cream—without any freaky, “what exactly is that?” ingredients. And once it does have a little more stability, you can go beyond merely adorning the tops of desserts with dollops of whipped cream and start frosting entire cakes with it—even piping decorative detail!
WATCH: How to Whip Cream
Your standard homemade whipped cream would slide right down the sides of a cake or begin to deflate and soak the top, but whipped cream with a little reinforcement makes for a perfectly delicate, angelic frosting that I find especially appealing during heavy, overheated summer days.
And all you need to make it happen is a package of plain, unflavored gelatin.
This is a trick I learned years ago from one of the pastry pros in our test kitchen. You simply dissolve a bit of unflavored gelatin powder in water, and then, as you’re whipping up your cream (I recommend doing this in a chilled metal mixing bowl if you have one), start drizzling this gelly water into the mix as your cream starts to reach soft peaks. Continue whipping until you have stiff peaks and there you go, simple as that, friends! Now you're ready to frost to your heart’s content.
GET THE RECIPE: Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
To address a question I’m sure at least a few of you have: No, this concoction does not have a weird gelatinous consistency. The gelatin just helps the aerated cream hold its structure and makes it a bit more durable, but otherwise, it tastes/feels like regular whipped cream. And you can use it as you would regular whipped cream. In fact, it’s a great trick for when you want to make whipped cream ahead of time.
You could pipe your heavenly whipped frosting onto cupcakes in cheerful spirals. Or you could coat a favorite layer cake, adorned with fresh, seasonal fruit. Or even use it to make a fanciful garnish on a pie.
How you use your whipped cream is entirely up to you. And now that it’s stabilized, you have plenty of time to decide.
*Additional note: Unfortunately, this trick is (obviously) not vegan-friendly. However, if you wanted to try a similar approach to reinforcing a homemade dairy-free whipped topping (made with coconut cream), you could incorporate 1-2 teaspoons of xantham gum as you whip up the cream.