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Cooking: What's the difference... Cream


Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Heavy Cream, Heavy Whipping cream, Light Cream, and Light Whipping Cream? Or been following a recipe that asks for a particular type of cream and wondered if you can use whatever is in your fridge instead?

Faced with a wall of cream products in various forms and names, it's hard not to be confused. This is complicated further by different countries calling different cream products different names. So here are the simple facts about cream...

The difference between the various types of cream available is defined by the fat content (sometimes referred to as the milk fat or butter fat). The higher the percentage of fat, the thicker the cream will be.


Type: Other Names: Fat Content:
Half and Half - 10-18%
Light Cream Single Cream, Table Cream, Coffee Cream 18-30%
Light Whipping Cream - 30-36%
Heavy Cream Heavy Whipping Cream 36-40%
Double Cream - 48%
Clotted Cream - 55%

Commonly asked Questions:

  • Q: Can Heavy Cream be used instead of Double Cream when baking?
  • A: Yes, the only difference is the result will be slightly less decadent and rich than if you were using Double Cream.

  • Q: Can I use Light Cream instead of Heavy Cream?
  • A: It really depends on what you are needing the cream for. If it is to be whipped, then no you can't because Light Cream doesn't whip.

  • Q: If the recipe asks for a heavier cream than I have, can I use a lighter cream but add extra?
  • A: See the previous question - if you do use a lighter cream, keep the amount the same.

  • Q: If I whip 1 cup of Heavy Cream, how much whipped cream will I get?
  • A: Whipping Heavy Cream generally doubles the volume, so for every cup of Heavy Cream you whip, you should get around 2 cups of whipped cream.

  • Most recipes will specify the amount before it is whipped.


  • Q: If I'm flavoring my whipped cream, do I add the flavorings before or after I've whipped the cream?
  • A: Whip the cream first and then add the flavorings making sure not to over whip. This way you'll get more volume out of the cream.

  • Q: The recipe just says cream, so what cream should I use?
  • A: If a recipe doesn't specify which type of cream is needed, the safest option is to go with Heavy Cream.

Common Gotcha's

The higher the fat content in the cream, the more prone it will be to curdling when heated to make a sauce. Heavy Cream can withstand being heated to high temperatures without curdling, so can be used in hot sauces. Just don't let it boil.

When using cream in a sauce with acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice or vinegar, heat the cream first until it has reduced by half, and then add the remaining ingredients for the sauce.

Over-beating cream until it becomes too thick and buttery is a common mistake. Before throwing it out and starting again, try adding unwhipped cream to the whipped cream, 1 tablespoon at a time whisking gently by hand until you get the right consistency.


Posted on January 13, 2009

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