Why You Need To Be Careful When Adding Extracts To Whipped Cream

Cupcakes, pies, puddings, ice creams — our desserts just wouldn't be the same without whipped cream. This silky layer of buttery foam can elevate any sweet treat, transforming it from dry and bitter to rich and dense with just one dollop. Imagine a strawberry shortcake without its signature mound of sweet, pearly mousse. What would alleviate this barren blend of tart fruit and crumbly scones? Not only is whipped cream a lovely treat by itself (we've all slurped it straight from the can before), but it's essential for some desserts. 

According to The Spruce Eats, whipped cream derives its texture from aerated butterfat. As speed and pressure are introduced, the dairy froths and builds to a unique level of height and density. These fatty bubbles double in form, creating a light, spreadable blend of ivory foam. Sweeteners are then added to modify the cream's taste and (sometimes) texture. While lower-fat dairy products can essentially be whipped, they won't be as thick or work as well as butterfat. Instead, they would make a lovely froth for homemade lattes and cappuccinos

Still, shopping for pre-made whipped cream can be a somewhat scary experience. With the number of extracts and chemical flavorings in modern food — a lot of it is even banned in other countries — it can be challenging to find food with simple ingredients. Thankfully, whipped cream is an easy dessert to make and only requires two ingredients: whipping cream and liquid or dry sweeteners. 

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing

Because whipped cream has a relatively neutral taste, additional sweeteners or flavors can be introduced without compromising the topping. Whether it's infused with liquid sugars, syrups, extracts, or alcohol (as in Cardi B's Whipshots), whipped cream can be altered to fit nearly any dessert or drink. 

However, Serious Eats says users should be wary of how much they add. Extra liquid — especially those with intense flavor and no fat — can water down the whipped cream and deconstruct its fluffy, malleable shape. Additionally, these sweeteners can make the whipped cream too sugary and undesirable when paired with desserts. 

Whipped cream can be made from various kitchen tools and electronic devices. Hand mixers, immersion blenders, whisks — even Mason jars — can yield those white peaks and fluffy mountains. Still, if you want to make your topping even thicker, replace your whipping cream with heavy creamScience Direct notes that this small change in extra fat allows the liquid to aerate more quickly and produce richer dollops of velvety cream. Then, mix in your sweeteners (sugars, powders, syrups, extracts, etc.). If you find it too sweet in the end, don't fret. Just add a heavy scoop of sour cream to neutralize the sugar. It will tone down its sickly sweet notes and lighten the heavy cream, giving it a more delicate body, per America's Test Kitchen. Lastly, allow the topping to chill and thicken before serving. 

There's a homemade Cool Whip alternative

Though whipped cream and Cool Whip seem relatively the same, there are a few differences between the two. For starters, Cool Whip is a mixture of water, air, additives, oils, and other artificial substances and flavors, per TasteMade. These ingredients act as stabilizers and give Cool Whip its signature fluffy structure. In fact, there's hardly any cream or milk within Cool Whip itself, deeming it a "whipped topping" instead of authentic whipped cream.

Refrigerated, frozen, or thawed — this whipped topping will remain intact without fear of melting or over-solidifying. As great as this seems, it does beg the question: How much is too much? During an at-home experiment, author Jonathan Fields found that it could last on the counter for nearly two weeks without much physical or chemical change. While Cool Whip may be perfect for Oreo dirt cake or no-bake desserts, you might be looking for another option. 

Luckily, there's a way to make homemade Cool Whip that can still retain its structure. Serious Eats reports that gelatin is the popular unifier between regular whipped cream and its Cool Whip counterpart. Mix it with cold water before adding water to your corn syrup-sugar mixture in a separate bowl, setting it over medium heat. Once the syrup has reached its recommended temperature, add the gelatin, whip, and let rest.