whipped cream on wisk


What is Cream?

Cream is a dairy product that is thick, white or light yellow in color, and contains a high percentage of fat. It’s a fatty liquid that forms a layer on the top of milk prior to homogenization.

Cream can be whipped into a stable foam for baking applications. The higher the butterfat content, the more stable the whipped version will be.1 Higher fat creams do not curdle as easily when used in cooking.1 The fat content ranges from 18-55%, depending on type.2

The FDA classifies cream as follows:3

  •  Dry cream § 131.149
  •  Heavy cream § 131.150
  •  Light cream. § 131.155
  •  Light whipping cream. § 131.157

Cream is most often labeled by the term pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized. When pasteurized, it has better flavor and whips up with greater fluff. Ultra-pasteurized cream is more sensitive to whipping. Consequently, ultra-pasteurized cream would not be ideal for recipes requiring peaks or frothing. The benefit of the ultra-pasteurized variety is the extended shelf life.

Cream is popular in baked goods such as cakes, pastries, cream fillings, custards, and frosting.


Cream is a dairy product collected from cattle or goats. As far back as 9000 B.C., humans have been breeding animals for milk production. When fresh milk is left unhomogenized the cream naturally rises to the top, due to the high fat content. It’s then easily skimmed off the top and used for butter, sour cream, or whipping cream.

As the dairy industry began to mechanize, milk was processed in a cream separator. The unhomogenized milk is placed in the cream separator and spun. The heavier milk clings to the walls and the lighter cream is siphoned off and collected.


It is commonly used in baked goods for the following:

  • To increase moisture absorption
  • To provide lactose which gives browning reaction upon baking
  • To tenderize
  • To serve as a buffering aid
  • To increase protein content and nutrition
  • For it’s foaming capability within cakes and frozen desserts.

Commercial production

A process of continuous centrifugation separates cream. The centrifuge causes natural separation of the fat globules from the mile serum.2

The separated cream is then homogenized and pasteurized. Proper pasteurization time and temperature ensure that harmful microbes are destroyed before packaging.

The FDA provides the following guidelines for pasteurization:3

Temperature Time
145 deg. F 1 30 minutes
161 deg. F 1 15 seconds
191 deg. F 1 second
204 deg. F 0.05 second
212 deg. F 0.01 second


Ultra-pasteurized cream is heated at or above 280°F for at least two seconds.3 Ultra-pasteurized cream has an extended shelf life compared to just pasteurized. The high temperature causes it to have a cooked-milk flavor. Some dairy companies add polysorbate to the formula to increase whipping and stability without the addition of stabilizers ultra-pasteurized cream will not whip up as easily or hold peaks compared to pasteurized cream.


The following table provides an overview of classification under FDA guidelines:3

Name % Fat Process Contains
Dry Cream 40-75 Pasteurized Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, Anticaking agents, Antioxidants, Nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners, Flavoring
Heavy Cream

Heavy Whipping Cream

36 Pasteurized, Ultra-pasteurized, Homogenized Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, Sweeteners, or Flavoring
Light Cream, Coffee Cream, Table Cream 18-30 Pasteurized, Ultra-pasteurized, Homogenized Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, Sweeteners, or Flavoring
Light Whipping Cream, Whipping Cream 30-36 Pasteurized, Ultra-pasteurized, Homogenized Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, Sweeteners, or Flavoring
Half and Half 10.5-18 Pasteurized, Ultra-pasteurized, Homogenized Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, Sweeteners, or Flavoring


FDA regulation

The FDA provides specific guidelines for cream under CFR § 131.3. It must conform to the U.S. Standards of Identify.


  1. Stradley, L. “Cream Types and Definitions – Double Cream.” What’s Cooking America, 3 Aug. 2017,
  2. Muir, D. “Cream.” Nutrition Bulletin 7.2 (1982).
  3. “CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.”, 1 Apr. 2017,

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