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Cream is the fatty layer swimming on top of fresh milk before homogenisation. Originally it was skimmed off but nowadays the milk is spun in a centrifuge until the heavier low-fat milk comes to the sides of the centrifuge, while the lighter cream stays in the middle. Cream is rich in fat, and is used to produce butter. Depending on the fat content it also contains 1.8 to 3.4 % milk protein and fat-soluble vitamins. Similar to milk there are several ways to treat cream for preservation. Different fat contents are achieved through the addition of skim milk.


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Cream varieties and fat contents

Depending on the country cream is classified in different categories with varying names and fat contents. In the UK these categories are:

  • Half cream 12 %
  • Cream or single cream 18 %
  • Whipping cream 35 %
  • Double cream 48 %
  • Clotted cream 55 %

In the US these categories are slightly different:

  • Half and half 10.5 - 18 %
  • Light, coffee, or table cream 18 - 30 %
  • Medium cream 25 %
  • Whipping or light whipping cream 30 - 36 %
  • Heavy whipping cream 36 % and more
  • Extra heavy cream or manufacturer's cream 38 - 40 %

Depending on the treatment method the shelf life of cream may be very different.

  • Fresh cream 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator
  • UHT-processed cream 6 weeks at room temperature
  • sterilised cream up to one year at room temperature

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Trouble with whipping cream in summer


Sometimes cream cannot be whipped but curdles. There are different causes for this phenomenon. Problems may occur when the cream is too fresh or too old, the composition of the milk fat or the relation between fat and protein are not right, or if the temperature is too high or too low. Fresh summer cream often has a high milk protein content and may be difficult to whip. Half cream is almost impossible to whip. Perfect for whipping cream is a fat content of 30 to 33 percent, and cream that has been stored in the refrigerator for at least one day. The temperature should then lie between 5 to 6°C. The bowl used for whipping should always be cold and very clean.


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