Stabilized Whipped Cream (Comparing 6 ways)

Whipped cream makes a delicious cake frosting, but it’s not the easiest to work with. Common problems include melting, leaking, or the inability to hold up heavier cake layers. However, there are ways around this by adding stabilizers to thicken the finished whipped cream.

Stabilizers are ingredients added to whipped cream that make it last longer and less prone to melting. These ingredients support the fat and/or liquid in heavy cream, allowing it to hold on to air bubbles better. This creates a more stable frosting for smoothing, supporting large layer cakes, and piping.

I tested piping with 6 stabilized whipped creams.

What stabilizer works best for cakes or piping? I’ve tested six stabilizers for whipped cream. We’ll go over the pros and cons for each one below so that you can decide which frosting is best for you and your cake.

First, let’s briefly go over whipped cream, so you’ll know precisely how each stabilizer works.

What is whipped cream frosting?

Whipped cream frosting is a thickened and sweetened cream used to top and add body to desserts.

My berry Chantilly cake is 3 layers and 8 inches. It's filled and frosted with stabilized whipped cream.

Whipped cream is made using cold cream, sugar (either powdered or granulated), and optional flavorings such as vanilla.

There are different types of cream you can buy. What’s the difference between them?

You’ll want to look at the fat content (listed in percentages here):

  • Heavy cream - at least 36%
  • Light whipping cream (or whipping cream) - 30-36%
  • Light cream - 18-30%
  • Half and half - 10-18%

To make a sturdy whipped cream frosting, you will want cream with at least 30% fat, either light whipping cream or heavy (whipping) cream.

Personally, I always purchase heavy whipping cream, even if I’m doing a quick dollop for pies or trifles. You can always thin cream with a bit of milk, but it’s harder to add fat to it (though not impossible, which I’ll show you in a bit ;)

Whipped cream frosting is sometimes referred to as “Chantilly cream,” which came from the Hameau de Chantilly, used in the 1800s. The exact difference between Chantilly and sweetened whipped cream is unclear. Some sources state that the Chantilly cream contains vanilla flavoring. I’ll keep referring to it as whipped cream in this article.

Why does whipped cream need to be stabilized?

Whipped cream is a type of foam or air trapped inside bubbles surrounded by thin layers of liquid. The air gets trapped in liquid heavy cream due to the continuous whisking motion. The fat contained within the heavy cream surrounds these air bubbles holding them in place.

Do you see why higher fat content now gives you a fluffier cream? More fat gives you more of a support system for all those air bubbles.

The fat stays solid at cooler temperatures, but just like butter, it will melt at higher temps. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep whipped cream cold to maintain their structure.

Whipped cream foams are also relatively delicate (compared to a Swiss meringue foam naturally stabilized with egg white proteins) and will break down if the temperature increases.

So what happens if you have to keep your cakes out for a few hours or just want enough stability to hold up cake layers or pipe designs? In these cases, you’ll likely need to reinforce those delicate air bubbles by adding a stabilizer.

What stabilizers did I test for whipped cream frosting?

In this experiment, I tested:

  1. Cold Bowl/Cold whisk (temperature)
  2. Gelatin (protein)
  3. Whip-it/ Sahnesteif) (starch)
  4. Cornstarch (starch)
  5. Greek Yogurt (fat/protein combo)
  6. Mascarpone (fat/protein)

Next to each stabilizer, I’ve added a category on how it stabilizes. I’ll go into the details below, along with the recipe I used.

For the results, I’m going to look at how it performed in three areas:

  1. Stability - How well did it hold pressure from within a layer cake? In this experiment, I used mini cakes, but I simulated pressure by adding a tuna can to the top of each cake. I left them to sit overnight in the fridge and took them out the next day. I then let them sit out at room temp for one hour (most likely what we’d do if we were serving a cake) and looked at whether the whipped cream bulged from inside the mini cake or stayed put.
  2. Piping - How well does it pipe and hold intricate designs? I’ll use the same piping tip to assess the ease, smoothness, and crispness of the piping.
  3. Leaking - How well did the stabilizer prevent water from leaking? The piped designs were left out for 4 hours at room temperature on parchment paper. Did any of them leak water out during that time?

OK! Onto the experiments, and first up is our control.

How to make whipped cream (no added stabilizers)

The first frosting I’m testing is regular whipped cream frosting with no additional ingredients other than a bit of sugar and flavor. This is frosting #1 in the list above and is stabilized using just a cold bowl and whisk.

For this whipped cream you'll need no additional ingredients other than heavy whipping cream, but you'll need a cold bowl and whisk.

Stabilizers don’t have to technically be any added ingredients but could be a particular process or technique, such as in this case. A super cold bowl and whisk works because, as I said earlier, the fat in heavy whipping cream remains solid at colder temperatures. These solid fats hold our air bubbles in place.

This frosting also serves as our control. That just means that it will be the frosting that we compare our other ones to see if there was any difference.

Whipped Cream Recipe

Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients:

-1 cup (227g) heavy whipping cream, very cold from the fridge

-3 - 4 tablespoons (42-57g) powdered sugar (granulated white is fine too)

-1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions:

Step 1 - Place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for at least 5 minutes.

A cold bowl helps the whipped cream develop nice sturdy cream.

Step 2 - Add cold heavy whipping cream.

Whisk on medium-high until it’s slightly thickened.

Step 3 - Add in your powdered sugar and vanilla (if using).

Continue to whip on medium to medium-high speed until you reach stiff peaks. Alternatively, once you get soft peaks, you can whisk the cream manually with a hand whisk as it goes from soft to stiff peaks quickly.

If you’ve over-beaten the whipped cream to the point where it’s not smooth and has a grainy texture, add a tablespoon or so of cold heavy whipping cream. Whisk by hand until it softens to the consistency you’d like.

Step 4 - Use immediately or keep it chilled in the fridge.

Results

Stability

Straight out of the fridge after sitting overnight, this frosting started to bulge on the sides. It continued to soften and push out from inside the cake the longer I left it out. It performed the worst compared to all the other cakes.

Piping

I was able to pipe intricate designs but it started to lose definition and was super soft after a couple hours.

Leaking

Medium-high leaking was detected after a few hours at room temperature.

Disadvantages

This whipped cream has the lowest stability in supporting cakes.

Overall Rating and Tips for Use

I would use this whipped cream for quick desserts that don’t require supporting cake layers, and this would be great for topping pies and strawberry shortcakes. It’s the purest cream flavor since nothing else is added.

How to make whipped cream frosting with gelatin

Gelatin is dried collagen, which is an animal-based protein. Bakers typically use it in sheet or granule (powder) form, which comes in varying strengths.

It’s a common thickener that creates a stable protein meshwork inside liquids. This meshwork or gel is of varying densities, from super firm to very loose.

Gelatin works to stabilize whipped cream by creating that protein meshwork in the liquid of a whipped cream foam.

An essential characteristic that bakers often forget is the effect of temperature on gelatin’s ability to solidify. Warm temperatures allow the gelatin to remain flexible, whereas cold temperatures set the gel.

This is the main challenge with working with gelatin-stabilized whipped cream. The gelatin mixture has to be added to the cream while slightly warm. If it’s too hot, it will melt the fat in the heavy cream. It will immediately solidify if it’s too cold before thoroughly mixing into the cream. It must also be used (filled and frosted onto a cake) before you chill the cream.

Whipped cream stabilized with gelatin

Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of granulated gelatin (I’m using the powdered Knox gelatin for this recipe)
  • 1 cup (227g) heavy whipping cream, very cold from the fridge
  • 3 - 4 Tablespoons (42-57g) tablespoons powdered sugar (granulated white is fine too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

Step 1 - Rehydrate gelatin.

Add 1 tablespoon of cold water to a small microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle the granulated gelatin over the surface of the water. Stir to ensure no dry pockets and allow this to hydrate (or bloom) for at least 5 minutes. The gelatin will look lumpy but glossy and wet.

Step 2 - Chill bowl and whisk.

Place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for at least 5 minutes. A cold bowl helps the whipped cream develop nice sturdy cream.

Step 3 - Add heavy cream and whisk until thick.

After the bowl is nice and cold, add heavy whipping cream and whisk on medium until it’s slightly thickened. Add in your powdered sugar and vanilla (if using). Whip on medium speed until you reach soft peaks. Stop the mixer.

Step 4 - Liquify gelatin.

Place your bowl of gelatin in the microwave for about 5 seconds. The gelatin will thicken the water slightly, but it should be liquid with no lumps. If it’s still lumpy or the gelatin is not smooth, microwave using only 3 seconds of heating. Make sure not to boil the water, as this can damage the gelatin. The gelatin should be added to the cream at around body temperature. Let it sit for a minute or two if it’s too hot.

Step 5 - Pour gelatin into thickened cream.

Slowly pour the melted gelatin into the whipped cream with the mixer at medium-low speed.

Step 6 - Whisk heavy cream.

Continue to beat on medium to medium-high speed until you reach stiff peaks. Alternatively, you can whisk the cream manually with a hand whisk, as it goes from soft to stiff peaks fairly quickly. Use immediately.

Results

Stability

This frosting held up ver well between my cake layers. It started to bulge out a bit, likely due to my error of overfilling the cake. You can see that it was much taller than my other test cakes.

Piping

Gelatin stabilized whipped cream pipes with super crisp designs, which held its shape the best out of all the stabilizers I tested. It set so well that I could lift up a rosette in one piece with my spatula.

Leaking

No leaking from the cream was detected.

Disadvantages

Gelatin is animal-based and not suitable for vegetarian diets.

It must be used immediately after making. I say that for all these whipped creams, but it is absolutely essential for this one.

When I make gelatin whipped creams, I make them in small batches and only as much as I need at the moment.

Here’s my process for large cakes:

  1. Make enough gelatin-stabilized whipped cream for the filling and crumb coat.
  2. Place the cake in the fridge to set.
  3. Meanwhile, make up a fresh batch for the top coat and piping. Immediately use that amount for the outside on the chilled cake.

You can usually tell when someone frosts a cake with gelatin whipped cream that has sat too long before use. No matter what you do - you can’t get it smooth, and it will look bumpy because the gelatin has already set.

You want the gelatin to set AFTER you put it on the cake. So make sure you’re applying freshly made gelatin-stabilized cream to a cake and THEN putting it in the fridge to set.

Overall Rating and Tips for Use

I use this for cases when I need the most stability for a cake or when I need to leave it out of the fridge on the longer end of my time spectrum. (I feel comfortable leaving my whipped cream cakes out for up to 4 hours at room temperature.)

How to make whipped cream frosting with Whip-It (Sahnesteif)

Whip-it is a commercially available powder specially made for thickening whipped creams. The important ingredient in this product is cornstarch.

Starches work by absorbing water and are typically initiated by heat breaking open the starch granules. (That’s why we must cook sauces with flour or cornstarch until it just boils to start the thickening process.) This causes the starch granules to swell or get fatter, which gives our liquids more body and a thicker mouthfeel.

I am also testing cornstarch as a stabilizer below this recipe, so you’re probably wondering why this product is different from the cornstarch you would typically buy. The type of starch contained in Whip-It is a modified cornstarch. "Modified" in this context means the starch is broken down, so it absorbs water from liquids without any heating steps.

Whipped cream stabilized with Whip-It

Ingredients

Yield: 2 cups

  • 1 cup (227g) heavy whipping cream, very cold from the fridge
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons (42-57g) powdered sugar (granulated white is fine too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon of Whip-It stabilizer

Instructions

Step 1 - Chill bowl and add heavy whipping cream.

Place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for at least 5 minutes. A cold bowl helps the whipped cream develop nice sturdy cream. After the bowl is nice and cold, add heavy whipping cream and whisk on medium-high until it’s slightly thickened.

Step 2 - Add in your powdered sugar and vanilla (if using).

Whip on medium speed until you reach soft peaks. Stop the mixer.

Step 3 - Add Whip-It powder.

Gently sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the Whip It Stabilizer over the top of your cream, and on medium speed, whip it up until you reach soft peaks.

Step 4 - Whip until you like the consistency.

It should very quickly and visibly stiffen up, but if you find that it’s still too loose for what you’d like, continue to sprinkle more in while the mixer is on low, up to 1 teaspoon. I find that going over 1 teaspoon makes the whipped cream overly chunky. USe immediately.

Results

Stability

This frosting held up nicely between my cake layers. It showed no significant bulging on the sides, even after 4 hours at room temperature.

Piping

I could pipe intricate designs and held the designs for several hours with medium stiffness.

Leaking

A tiny amount of leaking on the parchment was detected after a few hours.

Disadvantages

It can be difficult to source. I’ve seen it at Cost Plus World Market and Amazon.

Overall Rating and Tips for Use

I buy and use this product all the time. It’s so easy to just add to whipped cream and thicken it.

The biggest tip I have for you is that a little goes a long way. Do not go by what the package states - lol you'll get the chunkiest cream you've ever seen. Start with a little at first (the smaller amount in my recipes), then work your way up if you want more body.

How to make whipped cream frosting with cornstarch

Cornstarch is a common ingredient for thickening and is sometimes recommended for whipped creams.

If you do use it, you should cook the cornstarch. As I mentioned above in the Whip-It recipe, starch granules, unless modified, require heat to break open the starch granules and thicken. Using raw starch just makes the whipped cream gritty with minimal (if any?) thickening.

This recipe uses cooked cornstarch, which thickens into a paste and is added to the whipped cream. The idea is that the cooked cornstarch provides enough bulk in the whipped cream to support the fat and air bubbles.

Whipped cream stabilized with cornstarch

Yield: approximately 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup (227g) heavy whipping cream, very cold from the fridge
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

Step 1 - Make cornstarch paste.

Add cornstarch, granulated sugar 1/4 cup (or about 25% of the total amount of heavy whipping cream) in a small saucepan. Bring to just a simmer, whisking the entire time. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

Step 2 - Chill mixing bowl/whisk and add heavy whipping cream.

Place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for at least 5 minutes. A cold bowl helps the whipped cream develop nice sturdy cream.

Step 3 - Add sugar and whisk.

After the bowl is nice and cold, add heavy whipping cream and vanilla (if using) and whisk on medium-high until it’s slightly thickened. Whip on medium speed until you reach soft peaks. Stop the mixer.

Step 4 - Add cornstarch mixture.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour in your cornstarch mixture.

Continue to whip until it reaches stiff peaks. Use immediately.

Results

Stability

Like the control (or whipped cream with no stabilizers), this cake’s whipped started to bulge on the sides immediately after I took it out of the fridge. It continued to soften and push out from inside the cake the longer I left it out.

Piping

This whipped cream has the least amount of definition even compared to the control with no stabilizers. The piped designs were soft and mushy.

Leaking

A high amount of leaking was detected after a few hours.

Disadvantages

The resulting frosting was overly soft after a while. This method requires a cooking step, which was a little more work and time.

Overall

I probably wouldn’t use this method again. Compared to the other stabilizers, it’s more labor-intensive (requiring heat and cooling steps for the cornstarch mixture) with no big advantages.

How to make whipped cream frosting with Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is strained and is typically thicker and higher in protein than unstrained yogurt.

When added to whipped cream, Greek yogurt works as a stabilizer, probably by adding bulk in the form of thickened extra proteins contained in the yogurt’s whey. It adds body and a tiny bit of additional fat, which probably helps the cream-based fat.

Whipped cream stabilized with Greek yogurt

Yield: approximately 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (113g) full-fat Greek yogurt, cold (I like the Fage brand)
  • 1 cup (227g) heavy whipping cream, very cold from the fridge
  • 3 - 4 (42-57g) tablespoons powdered sugar (granulated white is fine too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

Step 1 - Chill bowl/whisk and add heavy whipping cream.

Place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for at least 5 minutes. A cold bowl helps the whipped cream develop nice peaks. Add cold heavy whipping cream.

Step 2 - Add Greek yogurt.

Add Greek yogurt and whisk on medium-high until it’s slightly thickened.

Step 3 - Add sugar and whisk until you like the consistency.

Add in your powdered sugar and vanilla (if using).

Whip on medium speed until you reach stiff peaks. Alternatively, once you get soft peaks, you can whisk the cream manually with a hand whisk as it goes from soft to stiff peaks fairly quickly. Use immediately.

Results

Stability

This frosting held up nicely between my cake layers. It showed no significant bulging on the sides, even after 4 hours at room temperature.

Piping

The frosting piped smooth and sharp designs that held their shape after a few hours at room temperature.

Leaking

A minor amount of leaking was detected after a few hours.

Disadvantages

This method does add a robust tangy-yogurt flavor to the finished whipped cream. If you don’t enjoy the taste of yogurts, you’ll want to choose another stabilizer.

Overall

I loved this method; it was effortless to add a bit of yogurt to the beginning of the whipping cream method. I adore the yogurt flavor profile it brings to my fresh fruit cakes. This is an absolute staple recipe in all the baking I do.

How to make whipped cream frosting with mascarpone

Mascarpone is a type of soft Italian cheese made from heavy cream that has been strained.

It has a nutty taste and is cream in color. Its fat content ranges from 60-75%. (Remember above that heavy cream’s fat content is around 36-40%.)

Because of the high fat content, mascarpone works to stabilize whipped cream with additional fat. Remember that the fats are holding the air bubbles in place, so more fat equals a more sturdy cream.

Whipped cream stabilized with mascarpone

Yield: approximately 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (113g) mascarpone cheese (let it sit out from fridge for about 10 mins soften)
  • 1 cup (227g) heavy whipping cream, very cold from the fridge
  • 3 - 4 (42-57g) tablespoons powdered sugar (granulated white is fine too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

Step 1 - Chill bowl/whisk.

Place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for at least 5 minutes. A cold bowl helps the whipped cream develop nice peaks.

Step 2 - Smooth out mascarpone.

Add your mascarpone and whisk until it has the consistency of soft cream cheese. It may look curdled when you start mixing. That's because the fat in the mascarpone is still too cold. It will begin to smooth out as it blends and warms a little.

I like to also smooth it out with a spatula after mixing to ensure that no lumps remain.

Step 3 - Add heavy whipping cream.

Add heavy whipping cream to the bowl with the mascarpone and mix on low speed until it’s smooth. Then, turn it up to medium-high until it’s slightly thickened.

Add in your powdered sugar and vanilla (if using).

Step 4 - Whip until you like the consistency.

Whip on medium speed until you reach stiff peaks. Alternatively, once you get soft peaks, you can whisk the cream manually with a hand whisk as it goes from soft to stiff peaks fairly quickly. Use immediately.

Results

Stability

This frosting held up nicely between my cake layers. It showed no significant bulging on the sides, even after 4 hours at room temperature.

Piping

Smooth and crisp piping with this whipped cream frosting and similar to gelatin stabilized cream, I was able to pick up a rosette. However, it was slightly softer than the gelatin one.

Leaking

A medium amount of leakage was detected after a few hours.

Disadvantages

I was surprised that this was more yellow in color than the other frostings. This is likely due to the higher fat content of this whipped cream. It also has a nuttier flavor than the other frostings, so if mascarpone is not a flavor you like, try one of the other methods.

Mascarpone is also relatively more expensive than the other stabilizers here.

Overall

I enjoyed the nutty flavor the mascarpone brought to this whipped cream. If it weren’t so pricey, I’d probably use this ingredient more often for whipped cream.

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Phew, that was a ton of information, but I think you’ll have plenty of whipped cream stabilizers to choose from.

If you’d like to see this experiment in action and see exactly how to make each version, you can watch this video:

Step-by-Step

Hi! I'm Adriana.

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