Dairy Products

An image of cream being whipped


Ah! the luxury of fresh cream. Rich and voluptuous by tradition and reputation, fresh cream gives a quality to recipes like no other product. It brings splendour to so many of the foods we enjoy. It gives richness to soups, dressings, sauces and cakes. It’s the essence of a great Devonshire Tea. ‘On the side’, it completes a rich chocolate dessert.

Cream is categorised according to its milk fat content and comes in two forms – pure and treated, but it must contain no less than 35% milk fat. The easiest way to find the fresh cream that best suits your needs is to look at the fat content, always found on the product label. Descriptors or the name of the cream will vary depending on the brand.

Types of cream

Double Cream

Rich or double cream,doesn't contain any thickening agents and usually has a fat content of at least 48% or more.
It's best used to dolloped on the side of a dish rather than as an ingredient in cooking as it can curdle when beaten.
While boiling can reduce cream, don’t over boil or it may separate. For sauces, boil until reduced by about ⅓.

Pure Cream

Pure cream doesn't usually contain any thickening agents and has a fat content of around 40%.

Thickened Cream

With 35% milk fat, thickened cream contains additives such as gelatin, vegetable gum or other modifying agents.
The additives act as thickening agents, making it easier to whip and less likely to separate or curdle. A vegetable gum based product is a better choice when including it in cooking, but all products are ideal for cake fillings, mousses, ice-creams and cheesecakes.
There is also a reduced-fat version containing only 18% milk fat. This is perfect for sauces and savoury dishes but due to it's lower fat content, won't whip.

Clotted Cream

Clotted or scalded cream has a slight caramelised flavour, and contains no less than 48% milk fat.
It’s the cream to serve with traditional Devonshire Teas. It also makes a decadent accompaniment to desserts, used in place of pure cream and is ideal as a filling for cakes and desserts. Serve simply with berries or use in savoury sauces and risottos.

Sour Cream

Sour cream is made by adding a culture and heating the cream to about 20°C for 12 to 14 hours. The lactic acid produced in this process gives a slightly sour taste and a thicker than normal consistency.
With its slightly tart flavour, sour cream is great in soups, sauces, dressings, casseroles, cakes or to compliment vegetables.
There is also a light version, containing only 18% milk fat. It has a thinner consistency than regular sour cream but is produced in a similar way.

Creme Fraiche

Thicker and less tarte than sour cream, crème fraiche contains between 38 and 48% milk fat depending on the brand.
Lactic acid is added to the cream and allowed to mature under controlled conditions which produces the naturally tart, slightly acidic and more refined nutty flavour.
Crème fraiche is favoured by chefs as it remains stable when heated.

Long Life Cream

Long-life cream contains 35% milk fat.
It has undergone ultra heat treatment (UHT) to extend its shelf life by heating it at high temperatures for a short period to stabilise it.
Long-life cream will whip well if chilled and can be spooned over desserts or used in cooking. It's also available in reduced-fat varieties and is a good substitute for coconut milk in a laksa dish.

Pressure Packed Cream

This is a thickened and reduced cream that contains a minimum of 25% milk fat.
It's conveniently packed using a harmless nitrous oxide gas propellant that dissipates rapidly when the pack’s valve is depressed. Giving you the convenience of a pre-whipped cream for unexpected cakes and desserts.

Canned Cream

Canned cream is heat-sterilised reduced-fat cream containing 21% milk fat.
The heat coagulates and thickens the cream and the shelf life of the product is extended by the canned packaging.
Spoon it onto desserts and add to dips, or chill thoroughly and serve whipped.

Nutrition information

Proximate nutrient content of some Australian creams

Type per 100 g 
Pure 2.3  35.9 1.8  1397  61 
Reduced-fat  2.8  26.6  3.7  1085  91 
Thickened  2.3 36.8  3.1  1461  62 
UHT Thickened  2.3 37.2  3.4  1470  72 
Rich or Double  1.7 49.4  1.7  1882  60 
Wipped, Aerosol  0.9  7.6  1.3  317  28 
Sour Cream  2.4  39.1  2.5  1534  69 
Source: NUTTAB 2010 – Australian Food Composition Tables: Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Canberra

Using cream

Whipping Cream

For the best results, whip cream at around 5°C after chilling the bowl and beater in the freezer.
Whipped cream should double in volume, particularly if it has a 35% milk fat content. Higher fat creams don’t increase as much in volume.

Why? This is because whipping cream puts air bubbles coated with a watery film (milk fat droplets) into the mixture. When sugar is added to the cream, the volume and the stiffness of the whip is reduced and the whipping time will be longer. Therefore flavourings or sugar should be added once the cream is whipped. Fold through quickly and lightly using a rubber or plastic spatula. Too much handling takes the air from the whip and decreases its volume.

Whipping quality is affected by:

Milk fat content
A milk fat content of 35% is ideal for whipping. Lower-fat creams are not as stable and will lose volume on standing or may not whip at all. Creams with more than 45% milk fat easily over-whip to produce an undesirable buttery texture.

Cream reaches its optimum whipping consistency 72 hours after production. It thickens with age. 

Whipping is most successful at 7°C or less. The whipping ability of long-life cream is diminished as it’s a homogenised product. However it can be whipped if well-chilled first. In most circumstances reduced-fat long-life cream will not whip at all.

Cooking with cream

The milk fat content in cream helps guide you in the kitchen. Below is a guide to choosing the right cream for the job.

Over 45% milk fat

The higher milk fat content in thick, double or rick creams makes it ideal for:

  • Dolloping on the side of a dessert of dish - it also holds its shape well so looks good too
  • An accompaniment to dessert, puddings and soups.
  • Combined into hot dishes for added richness.

Creams with more than 45% milk fat easily over-whip to produce an undesirable buttery texture.

35% milk fat

The milk content in pure, whipping or sour creams makes them ideal for:

  • Adding to sauces, soups, vegetable gratins, quiches and custards. To avoid it separating only reduce by about ⅓ and use a vegetable gum based thickened cream as it's more stable when heated.
  • Pour pure cream over desserts, use in reduction or pasta sauces - or added to milk based cocktails like a pina colada!
  • Cream has a light airy texture when whipped making it ideal for cake fillings, mousses, ice-creams and cheesecakes. Cream reaches its optimum whipping consistency 72 hours after production as it thickens with age. For the best results, chill the bowl and beater in the freezer at around 5°C before whipping the cream. It should double in volume at this milk fat percentage.
  • Substitute sour cream for milk and butter in scones.

18% milk fat

This lighter milk fat content earns this group the title of 'lite'; usually a thickened or sour cream variety ideal for:

  • pouring
  • sauces, soups, drinks and desserts

These lower-fat creams are not as stable and will lose volume on standing or may not whip at all.

For more recipe ideas using cream, visit The Dairy Kitchen.

Storing cream

Always use cream at its freshest. Check the use-by date and, as a rule, don’t keep it in the refrigerator for more than 10 days. To prevent contamination, always keep cream sealed as it is susceptible to flavour absorption. Always keep it in the refrigerator at 4˚C. Its life will be reduced considerably if left out for extended periods.

Cream can be frozen for up to three months. If it has less than 40% milk fat, lightly whip cream before freezing it and always thaw it in the refrigerator.