Difference Between Whipped and Buttercream

Two cakes

As any professional baker or home cook knows, the type of frosting you use can make all the difference in the taste and appearance of your cakes and desserts. While there are countless types of frosting out there, two that are commonly used are whipped cream and buttercream. In this article, we will explore the differences between whipped cream and buttercream, and help you determine which one to use for your next cake or dessert creation.

Understanding the Basics of Whipped Cream

Let’s start with whipped cream. As the name suggests, this type of frosting is made by whipping heavy cream until it reaches a light and fluffy texture. Whipped cream is often used to top desserts such as pies, cakes, and sundaes, and can also be used as a filling in between cake layers. In addition to its light texture, whipped cream is known for its delicately sweet flavor and airy texture.

It’s important to note that whipped cream can be made in a variety of ways. Some recipes call for the addition of sugar or vanilla extract to enhance the flavor, while others may use different types of cream, such as light cream or half-and-half. Additionally, whipped cream can be stabilized with the addition of gelatin or cornstarch to prevent it from deflating or melting too quickly. Experimenting with different ingredients and techniques can lead to a unique and delicious whipped cream that perfectly complements your dessert.

How to Make Whipped Cream: Step-by-Step Guide

Making whipped cream is relatively quick and easy, and requires just a few ingredients. To make whipped cream, you will need heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Begin by pouring the heavy cream into a large mixing bowl, and whipping it on high speed with a whisk or electric mixer. As the cream begins to thicken, add sugar and vanilla extract to taste. Continue whipping until the cream has thickened and formed stiff peaks.

Once you have made your whipped cream, you can use it in a variety of ways. It is a perfect topping for pies, cakes, and hot cocoa. You can also use it as a filling for crepes or as a dip for fresh fruit. Whipped cream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, but it is best to use it immediately for the freshest taste and texture.

Pros and Cons of Using Whipped Cream

One of the main advantages of using whipped cream as a frosting is its light and airy texture, which can complement a variety of dessert recipes. Additionally, whipped cream is simple to make and can be customized by adding different flavors and colors. On the downside, whipped cream is not as stable or durable as some other types of frosting. It can melt or collapse when exposed to heat or humidity, and may not hold up well for transportation or storage.

Another consideration when using whipped cream as a frosting is its shelf life. Whipped cream is a perishable product and should be consumed within a few hours of being made. It is not recommended to use whipped cream as a frosting for cakes or desserts that will be served at a later time or date. Additionally, whipped cream may not be suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.

Types of Whipped Cream – Dairy and Non-Dairy Options

It is important to note that there are different types of whipped cream available on the market. In addition to traditional dairy-based whipped cream, non-dairy options are also available for those with dietary restrictions. Non-dairy whipped cream substitutes typically use ingredients such as coconut milk or soy milk instead of heavy cream.

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When it comes to dairy-based whipped cream, there are also different variations available. Some whipped creams are sweetened, while others are unsweetened. Additionally, some whipped creams are stabilized with ingredients such as gelatin or cornstarch to help them hold their shape for longer periods of time.

It is also worth noting that whipped cream can be flavored with various extracts or syrups to add a unique twist to desserts or beverages. Popular flavors include vanilla, chocolate, and caramel.

Essential Tools for Making Perfect Whipped Cream

To make perfect whipped cream every time, it is important to have the right tools on hand. A good quality whisk or electric mixer is essential for whipping cream to the desired consistency. A large mixing bowl and a rubber spatula can also be helpful for making sure all ingredients are fully incorporated. Additionally, keeping ingredients and utensils cold can help achieve the best results when making whipped cream.

Another important factor to consider when making whipped cream is the type of cream used. Heavy cream, with a fat content of at least 35%, is the best option for achieving a stable whipped cream. It is also important to avoid over-whipping the cream, as this can cause it to become grainy and separate.

For those who want to add flavor to their whipped cream, there are many options available. Vanilla extract, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder are popular choices for adding sweetness and flavor. For a more unique twist, try adding spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, or even a splash of liqueur like Grand Marnier or Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Adding Flavors to Your Whipped Cream

One of the benefits of using whipped cream is the ability to customize the flavor by adding different ingredients. Common add-ins for whipped cream include cocoa powder, fruit puree, and liqueurs such as Bailey’s or Grand Marnier. Adding flavors to whipped cream can elevate a simple dessert into a show-stopping masterpiece.

Another way to add flavor to whipped cream is by using extracts such as vanilla, almond, or peppermint. Simply add a few drops of your desired extract to the cream before whipping it. You can also experiment with spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to give your whipped cream a warm, cozy flavor. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try out different flavor combinations to find your perfect whipped cream recipe!

Differences Between Buttercream and Whipped Cream

While both whipped cream and buttercream are popular frosting choices, there are some key differences between the two. The most obvious difference is that whipped cream is made from heavy cream, while buttercream is made from butter and powdered sugar. Buttercream is thicker and creamier than whipped cream, and has a more pronounced sweetness and buttery flavor. Additionally, buttercream is more stable and can better withstand heat and humidity than whipped cream.

Another difference between buttercream and whipped cream is their versatility in terms of flavor. While whipped cream is often used as a simple, light topping for desserts, buttercream can be flavored in a variety of ways, such as with vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or fruit purees. This makes buttercream a popular choice for cakes and cupcakes, as it can be customized to complement the flavors of the baked goods. However, whipped cream is still a great option for those who prefer a lighter, less sweet frosting.

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Types of Buttercream – American, Swiss, Italian, French

Within the category of buttercream frosting, there are several different varieties to choose from. American buttercream is the simplest type, made by creaming together butter and powdered sugar. Swiss and Italian buttercream are made by whipping egg whites and sugar, then adding butter and flavorings. French buttercream is made using egg yolks instead of egg whites, resulting in a richer and more decadent flavor.

Another type of buttercream frosting is German buttercream, which is made by combining pastry cream and butter. This results in a creamy and smooth texture, with a slightly less sweet taste than American buttercream. Another popular variation is ermine buttercream, also known as boiled milk frosting. This type of buttercream is made by cooking flour and milk together, then adding butter and sugar for a light and fluffy texture.

When choosing a type of buttercream frosting, it’s important to consider the flavor and texture you’re looking for. American buttercream is great for those who prefer a sweeter taste, while Swiss and Italian buttercream are lighter and less sweet. French buttercream is perfect for those who want a richer and more indulgent flavor, while German buttercream and ermine buttercream offer unique textures and tastes that are worth trying.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting: Step-by-Step Guide

To make a basic American buttercream frosting, you will need butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk or cream. Begin by creaming together softened butter and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Add vanilla extract and milk or cream, then continue mixing until the frosting is smooth and creamy. For Swiss, Italian, or French buttercream, a slightly more involved process is required, which includes heating sugar and egg whites over a double boiler before whipping.

It’s important to note that the type of butter you use can greatly affect the taste and texture of your buttercream frosting. For the best results, use unsalted butter that is at room temperature. If you use salted butter, your frosting may end up too salty. Additionally, if your butter is too cold, it will be difficult to cream with the powdered sugar and may result in a lumpy frosting. Letting the butter sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before starting the recipe can help ensure a smooth and creamy frosting.

Pros and Cons of Using Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream frosting has several advantages as a frosting choice. It has a rich and creamy texture, and can be flavored and colored in a variety of ways. Additionally, buttercream frosting is more stable than whipped cream and can be stored and transported without melting or breaking down. On the downside, buttercream can be quite sweet and heavy, which may not be to everyone’s liking. It can also require a bit more effort to make than whipped cream.

Another advantage of using buttercream frosting is that it can be easily piped and shaped into intricate designs, making it a popular choice for decorating cakes and cupcakes. It also has a longer shelf life than whipped cream, which can start to deflate and lose its texture after a few hours.

However, it’s important to note that buttercream frosting is not suitable for everyone. Those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies should avoid it, as it contains butter and milk. Additionally, buttercream frosting can be high in calories and fat, so it may not be the best choice for those watching their weight or trying to maintain a healthy diet.

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Tips for Decorating Cakes with Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream frosting is a popular choice for decorating cakes, as it can be piped and shaped into a variety of designs. Some tips for successfully using buttercream frosting include keeping the frosting at room temperature for easier piping, using a piping bag and appropriate tips for the desired design, and practicing on parchment paper before applying the frosting to the cake. Additionally, chilling the cake between frosting layers can help achieve a more professional look and prevent the frosting from sliding or melting.

Another important tip for decorating cakes with buttercream frosting is to make sure the cake is completely cooled before applying the frosting. If the cake is still warm, the frosting can melt and slide off the cake. It’s also important to use a crumb coat, which is a thin layer of frosting applied to the cake before the final layer. This helps to seal in any loose crumbs and create a smooth surface for the final layer of frosting. Finally, if you want to add color to your frosting, use gel food coloring instead of liquid food coloring, as it won’t affect the consistency of the frosting.

Comparing Texture and Flavor of Buttercream and Whipped Cream

When considering the differences between buttercream and whipped cream, texture and flavor are key factors. Whipped cream has a light and airy texture and a delicately sweet flavor, while buttercream is thicker and creamier with a more pronounced sweetness and buttery flavor. Depending on the dessert recipe, either type of frosting can work well, but the end result will have a different taste and appearance.

It’s important to note that whipped cream is a perishable ingredient and can quickly lose its texture and flavor if not stored properly. It should be kept refrigerated until ready to use and whipped just before serving. Buttercream, on the other hand, can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days without losing its texture or flavor. This makes it a convenient option for busy bakers who need to prepare desserts in advance.

Choosing the Right Frosting for Your Cake

Ultimately, the choice between whipped cream and buttercream frosting comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of the dessert recipe. Whipped cream is a good choice for light and airy desserts such as fruit tarts and summer cakes, while buttercream is ideal for more substantial and decadent cakes like wedding cakes or special occasion desserts. When in doubt, consider the texture and flavor of the cake itself and choose a frosting that will complement and enhance those qualities.


In conclusion, whipped cream and buttercream are two popular frosting choices used in a wide array of desserts. Understanding the differences between the two types of frosting can help you make an informed decision when it comes to selecting the perfect frosting for your next baking project. Whether you opt for the light and airy sweetness of whipped cream, or the creamy richness of buttercream, your desserts are sure to be a hit when topped with the perfect frosting.

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