Who or how whip cream was originally created is undocumented. It dates back to at least 1616 King Louis the XIV. (See, History of Whipped Cream)
Pressurized nitrous oxide systems were developed in the 1930's. Aaron S. "Bunny" Lapin invented Sta-Whip, a vegetable based whip cream substitute during the food-rationing days of WWII. He later invented Reddi-Whip in 1948 when he introduced a better valve system for dispensing cream from a can. See more about Reddi-Whip.
Another invention that improved the way whipped cream is dispensed was created in Europe in the mid 1900's. The charges consist of a canister typically made of metal Read more about whip cream charger dispensers.
I spent several years of my young life living on a cattle ranch. We had a milk cow named Granny. My dad would milk the cow and bring it in the house in a big galvanized bucket. The bucket would sit awhile in the kitchen and the cream would rise to the top of the pail. My mom would place a large, clean, rolled up flour-sack towel along one side of the bucket then strain the milk into large gallon-sized jars. What remained in the bottom of the bucket was the glorious, fresh cream.
Cream rises to the top of a pail (or jar, or bowl) of unhomogenized milk because the fat globules are large too large to stay suspended in the liquid milk. The globules are lighter than water so they float to the top which takes about 12 or more hours. In the meantime natural bacteria starts to ripen the cream and milk which gives both a sweet and slightly sour flavor.
Today the cream is commercially separated using a centrifuge. Both the cream and milk are immediately pasteurized to kill any bacteria. The resulting flavor is quite a bit different from what we had in our kitchen when I was a child.
The mechanical action of the beaters adds air bubbles to the liquid. The fat globules in the cream clump around the bubbles and get stabilized and coated by protein molecules. Chilling increases the viscosity of the fat which which is why it is suggested that you chill the bowl, beaters, and cream to 50degress or less before whipping.
This whipped cream emulsion is pretty fragile which is why whipped cream tends to separate back out in a short amount of time. See the section below on stabilizers to learn ways to get the whipped cream to hold up for a longer period of time.
Use well-chilled heavy or whipping cream with a minimum of 36% milk fat. Ultra-pasteurized or sterilized cream usually takes longer to whip.
Chill everything, the cream, the mixer beaters and the bowl for at least 2 hours before whipping. If the tools or the cream is too warm the milk fat will become oily rather than stay firm.
Use either a hand or mixer on a stand. The blender is not the right tool for whipping cream and will produce only about half the volume created by a mixer. Start mixing at medium-high then turn the mixer to a lower setting and continue to mix until the proper texture is achieved.
Whipping cream used for topping a dessert such as pie, cake or coffee drinks should be beaten just until it forms soft peaks. If you want to use the cream in a more decorative fashion then beat it just until it starts to become “buttery”. This thicker cream can be used in a pastry bag.
Should you over-whip the cream you can try adding 2 or more tablespoons of chilled cream and continue to mix until the cream is the proper texture.
There are many different sweeteners that work well for sweetening whipped cream. You may not always want to add a sweetener but when you do; here are some options.
Products such as Splenda, Equal or Sweet ‘N Low may be used to as a sweetener for whipped cream. Depending on the product you can just substitute the sugarless alternative for sugar.
If you are accustomed to the flavor of Stevia it can be used to sweeten whipped cream. Check for conversion recommendations from the manufacturer of your favorite product. Truvia, for example, suggests using 3/8 teaspoon stevia per teaspoon called for in your recipe.
As mentioned before; confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) has cornstarch which acts as a stabilizer for the whipped cream.
Stabilizers are particularly useful if you wish to prepare the whipped cream and store it until use. Use 1 teaspoon per cup of heavy cream. Two common brands include Whip Cream Aid or Whip It.
You can also use about teaspoon of powdered gelatin per cup of whipped cream. This is frequently used for desserts such as trifle.
Most of these recipes can be used as cake fillings. You may want to purchase an angel food or pound cake, slice it and use the filling between the layers.