January 5: National Whipped Cream Day

What. A. Fine. Day. It. Is. Happy National Whipped Cream Day!


Why on earth would National Whipped Cream Day be right when so many people in the world are taking on a deeply boring eat-healthy New Year's Resolution? Well, that's because January 4 is the birthday of Aaron "Bunny" Lapin, who you may not know but you probably love, because in 1946, he developed an aerosol canister designed for delivering whipped cream: yes, Reddi-Wip.

Mr. Bunny (that's how I am referring to him from now on) was a salesman who switched from the apparel industry to the food industry during World War II, when he began selling a whipped cream made specifically to reflect war shortages, using a little cream and some vegetable fat. He sold it with a sort of extruding machine.

But according to the New York Times,

"in 1946, when the Crown Cork and Seal Company introduced the first seamless, lined and lithographed aerosol canister -- the Spra-tainer, Mr. Lapin became one of the canister's first customers.
He put his product in the aerosol cans under the brand name Reddi-wip, initially selling it through milkmen in St. Louis. Distribution quickly expanded throughout the United States and Canada.
Within five years, Mr. Lapin was worth millions. In 1951, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called him ''Bunny Lapin, Whipped Cream King.'' Aerosol Age, a trade publication, wrote, ''He bought Cadillacs two at a time and lived in Gloria Swanson's furnished mansion in Hollywood.''

While Mr. Bunny didn't invent whipped cream, he might as well have for all of the delightful fuss this invention created.  All of a sudden, whipped cream became an anytime topping, not just reserved for special occasions. It became a sundae topper, a slice of pie garnish, commonplace on top of hot chocolate. According to the New York Times, Reddi-Wip still accounts for about 50% of all whipped cream sold in the USA.

Making whipped cream.

While I find all of the above fascinating, I'll tell the truth: I still think there is nothing like homemade whipped cream. It is a very good thing that for some reason, people think is complicated.

Well, it's not. Here is how I always make whipped cream; it is a fearless and easy method. I've made whipped cream a zillion lazy, non-perfect ways, and I can tell you that most of them work. You can fuss all you like (people get really crazy about the type of bowl, etc, etc), but this is ultimately what it comes down to. Don't worry about whether your bowl is stainless steel or glass. It's still going to work, people. 

The one thing you don't want to do here is use cream that is not cold. It's important for the cream to be cold so that it can capture air bubbles and gain density. If you try to whip warm cream, you will get lukewarm results. 

If you have time, put your mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 10 minutes. It is not going to make or break the recipe, but it will help you attain a great texture. If you don't have time, proceed. Your cream might just be less firm, which is generally not a problem because everyone will just be delighted to have homemade whipped cream. 

Whipped cream

Makes about 2 cups. You'll need:

  • a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or a hand mixer
  • a mixing bowl
  • a rubber spatula
  • 1 cup whipping cream (make sure to use whipping cream, as half and half or light cream may not have enough fat to whip)
  • confectioners' or granulated sugar: either none, or up to 2 tablespoons 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, if desired 
  1. Place your cream in the bowl. Mix with your hand or stand mixer on high until the cream begins to puff and gain thickness. If you pause the mixer and lift the beater, it should softly cling to the beater but not hold a defined shape; this is known as "soft peaks". 
  2. Once your mixture has reached the soft peak phase, stir in the vanilla and sugar, if adding. I wrote you might not want to add these in the recipes, and this depends on what you are topping. If it is a super-sweet dessert, say an ice cream sundae with sprinkles, hot fudge, and cookie bits, you might not need any sugar; the cream itself will be a complement to the already-existing sweetness.
  3. However, if it is a dessert that is not terribly sweet, like a bittersweet dark chocolate torte or a fruit pie that is tart, you will probably want the sugar. It's totally up to you. Ditto with the vanilla. I think it adds a little extra flavor, but it is not necessary. 
  4. Once the sugar/vanilla is added, keep on beating until the mixture holds firm peaks (you can pause beating and the mixture feels stiff, like it will stay right where it is if you piped it or spread it). Once it has firm peaks, STOP mixing because the whipped cream will begin to separate and you'll make butter if you keep on going. Use right away; store leftovers in the fridge.

More tips:

If you do overbeat your whipped cream, go ahead and make butter. (Craftsy)

Stabilize your whipped cream, so it holds its shape and lasts longer, like so. (Craftsy)

You can make savory whipped cream, too. (Craftsy)

Whipping cream will double in volume (roughly); so if you want 2 cups of whipped cream, whip one cup of cream. Get it? Cool. 

See? Easy. Enjoy some whipped cream for National Whipped Cream Day!