The Creamy Ingredient Ina Garten Uses To Stabilize Whipped Cream

If there's one ingredient that can turn even the most boring desserts into something totally craveable, it's whipped cream. A dollop of homemade whipped cream makes even instant hot chocolate mix taste magical. The only problem is that we don't usually have time to make whipped cream à la minute, but it's not something we can really make ahead of time, either. That's because traditional whipped cream, made with just heavy cream and sugar, is mostly air. It's not very stable, so as time passes, it starts to deflate and weep, which not only takes away its visual impact, but can also make deserts watery and soggy. Yuck.

But thanks to a secret ingredient up "Barefoot Contessa" star Ina Garten's sleeve, make-ahead whipped cream is now a reality, and your chocolate cream pies are about to look a lot better for a lot longer. Garten's secret? Creme fraiche, a cultured cream with a rich dairy flavor that is actually delicious on its own, too, unlike some other popular ingredients used to stabilize whipped cream.

Garten's creme fraiche-stabilized whipped cream doesn't require any special equipment or techniques, as she shared with Food Network. Just add 2 tablespoons of the tangy dairy product into every 1 ½ cups of heavy cream, then whip with your sweetener and flavoring of choice until soft peaks form. There you have it: make-ahead whipped cream that will stand the test of time.

How creme fraiche works as a stabilizer

How does Garten's magic trick work? Creme fraiche acts as a stabilizer for whipped cream because it adds extra fat and some acid to the cream, which helps strengthen the fat molecules so they can hold more air for a longer time. And, unlike whipped cream stabilized with cream of tartar or cornstarch, it won't add any bitter flavors or strange textures to the final product. 

What if you don't have any creme fraiche on hand, or you can't find it at your grocery store? You can actually make your own creme fraiche by adding 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to a cup of heavy cream and letting it sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours, or until thick. If that seems like too much work, then you could always try stabilizing whipped cream with an ingredient that you can find at pretty much any grocery store: vanilla instant pudding mix. Ina doesn't need to know!