In the year and a half I spent scooping ice cream at Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream in NYC, the best thing I learned, hands down, was that you don’t need any fancy tools to make delicious, fresh whipped cream. All you really need to get the job done is a glass jar with a lid.
Before I worked there, I was under the impression that homemade whipped cream required a whisk at the very least. But the workspace behind the ice cream counter was often cramped and crowded, so we had to cut corners where we could. And if we could make whipped cream without having to store or clean any big, clunky tools, you better believe we would.
I’ve continued to use this trick in the years since I stopped scooping ice cream, because it’s way more convenient than getting out my electric mixer every time I want whipped cream. Whenever I need a quick topping for ice cream, pie, cake, scones, fresh berries, or anything else, I know I can literally whip something up in a matter of minutes with just two simple ingredients. Here’s how you can, too.
1. Pick a cream.
It’s best to skip over the light and reduced-fat options when you’re shopping for cream for your whipped cream. Fat is what enables air bubbles to form, which is what gives whipped cream the volume it’s known for, so a fattier cream—like heavy whipping cream—is the best option to reach for.
If you’re looking for a dairy-free substitute, coconut cream makes an excellent choice. That’s because its fat content is on par with actual heavy whipping cream. If you’re averse to coconut flavor, don’t worry about it—it’s so subtle, you won’t really notice it unless you’re eating it plain. It will taste almost identical to regular whipped cream when you spoon it over desserts.
2. Chill the cream and jar before getting started.
The colder the environment you’re working with, the faster and more easily your whipped cream will come together. If you’re not working in an ice cold kitchen (as we often weren’t on warm, New York days at the ice cream parlor) you can save the day by chilling your tools and ingredients. Stick the jar in the freezer about 10 to 20 minutes before you plan to use it. And keep your cream in the fridge up until the moment you’re ready to get started.
If you are using coconut cream instead, just be sure to throw the can in the fridge about 10 to 20 minutes before you use it. When it gets cold, the fat may harden on top of the liquid cream—simply whisk it together with a fork until it develops into a consistent mixture. It should look like the picture below before you actually start whipping it.
3. Add sugar and shake.
Opt for a small amount of powdered sugar or a liquid sweetener, like honey or maple syrup. Avoid using granulated sugar because it won’t dissolve as easily and can prevent the cream from whipping properly. Use a teaspoon of sweetener for every cup of cream you’re whipping (or more if you’d prefer it sweeter).
Combine the two ingredients in your chilled jar, seal the jar tightly, and begin to shake it vigorously. It’ll take about five to 10 minutes for your cream to come together, depending on how far ahead of time you chilled everything and how warm the environment is that you’re working in. If your jar starts to get a little warm from your hands, pause and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes until it cools back down.
If you want your cream to be runnier and more like a sauce, shake it for less time; if you want it to be stiff enough to use as a frosting, shake it for more time. Just be careful not to shake it for too long, because if you do, it might take on a butter-like consistency (which has happened to me on more than one occasion). Check on it periodically to be safe, and if you notice it’s starting to become grainy, stop shaking right away.
Back in the day at the ice cream parlor, I had arms of steel from all the shaking. But these days, my boyfriend and I often split the work to save ourselves the sweat. Feel free to involve a friend or partner in your whipped cream making adventures, because doing it with just a jar is a party trick worth showing off.