The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Elevate Your Whipped Cream

Whether it be a pie, cake, or simply an ice cream sundae, a dollop of whipped cream is the perfect finishing touch to many desserts. It also happens to be relatively easy to make since it only requires one ingredient — heavy cream. As you continue to whisk the heavy cream, peaks start to form, and eventually so does the whipped cream. The hardest part of the process is making sure you don't over-whisk it and accidentally end up with butter.

The reason you can turn heavy cream into whipped cream is that it has a high-fat content, BBC Science Focus explains. When you whisk it, two things happen: the fat molecules break apart and they trap the air that gets whipped in. The fat in the heavy cream is therefore a crucial component in whipped cream, but according to Taste of Home, it can also make your dessert overly buttery and even leave a fatty film in your mouth. That's not something you necessarily want if your dessert is already very heavy. Luckily there's one ingredient you can add to your whipped cream that will cut its richness.

Sour cream improves the taste of whipped cream

Since basic whipped cream is made with only one ingredient, its flavor is one-dimensional. Many recipes call for adding a bit of sugar for extra sweetness, which can be substituted for honey or maple syrup, per Add a Pinch. It's also common to use vanilla extract, and Bobby Flay even adds bourbon to his recipe. An even better choice, however, is sour cream.

As America's Test Kitchen reveals, sour cream doesn't just add another layer of flavor to whipped cream, it also creates balance. The tanginess of sour cream contrasts both the heaviness of the whipped cream as well as the sweetness of the dessert you're putting it on. Instead of just making your dessert extra creamy, the whipped cream will also enhance the overall flavor. According to Martha Stewart, this works best when you're working with a very buttery or sweet dessert that could use a hit of brightness.

How much sour cream should you add to whipped cream?

When it comes to adding sour cream to whipped cream, less is more. Too much sour cream can not only make your whipped cream overly tangy, and it can also alter the consistency. As Home Cook World explains, heavy cream contains 36% to 48% fat, while sour cream is 20% fat. Since fat is what allows whipped cream to hold its shape, the addition of sour cream will create a more runny outcome. This may not make much of a difference if you're just plopping it on a slice of pie, but if you're frosting a cupcake or decorating a cake, the whipped cream will be harder to pipe on.

For best results, America's Test Kitchen recommends a ratio of 1 cup of heavy cream to 1/4 cup of sour cream. It also helps if the whipped cream and sour cream are both well chilled. To combine the two, per Bon Appétit's instructions, whip the heavy cream as you normally would, then once you see soft peaks, fold in the sour cream. The resulting whipped cream will be perfectly smooth and flavorful.