Ingredients: Heavy vs Whipping Cream

Saturday, January 6, 2007

I’ve been assembling ingredients to make a batch of ice cream and to also prep some recipes from a cookbook I’m reviewing. Multiple recipe sources are telling me to not confuse whipping cream for heavy cream.

However, every container of cream in my grocery stores are labeled as “Heavy Whipping Cream”. Heavy cream reportedly has a higher fat content than whipping cream. Unfortunately, it has also become a loc ness monster of sorts in my parts.

And I was so looking forward to being a stickler for details!

The Heavy Whipping Cream label info:

Serving Size 1 Tbs (15 mL)
Calories: 50, Fat cal: 50
Total Fat 6g, Sat fat: 3.5g

I’m completely amused that there is no calcium listed in cream! Sweets responded, looking over the calories from fat: cause there isn’t room.

Cook’s Illustrated asks the question I originally asked: What’s the difference between heavy and whipping cream?


posted January 6th, 2007 at 9:40 pm

The best way I have found to tell seems to be to look at the nutrition data. The “heavy cream” that I know is 40% butterfat (because it’s labeled as such) has 60 calories per serving, with 50 from fat. And I have one container of “heavy whipping cream” with the same stats in the fridge right now. I also have a container of “heavy whipping cream” that has 45 calories with 40 from fat. So it must be lower in butterfat.

I’ve got Sweets working on the nutritional analysis. This label doesn’t list % (other than RDA), and I keep getting caught on wondering % by volume vs weight…


posted January 6th, 2007 at 10:36 pm


The International Dairy Foods Association defines away the ambiguity.

Light Whipping Cream:
contains not less than 30 percent milkfat, but less than 36 percent milkfat. Light whipping cream may also be called “whipping cream.”
Heavy Cream:
contains not less than 36 percent milkfat. Heavy cream may also be called “heavy whipping cream.”

Is that by weight or by volume? They didn’t say! I’m sure that what is in the fridge right now is 36% or greater based on both the USDA and the IDFA, but I feel the call of science (or is that the Wolaver’s IPA?).

Because math is fun, we will figure out what we have…

Google books gives us our first clue:
Dairy Chemistry and Biochemistry – by P… L… H… Mac Sweeney, Patrick F. Fox, …

Milk fat has a density of about 902kg m-3 at 40° C

Some unit conversion and we see milkfat has an approximate density of 900 grams per 1000 milliliters (1000 liters = 1 cubic meter).

The pint in the fridge claims 6 grams of total fat per serving. A serving is 15 milliliters. So we have matched the units.

The next step is to either

  1. scale 900g/1000mL down to the grams of total fat per serving so we can compare the volume of pure milk fat to our serving size. That will give us fat by volume or
  2. scale 900g/1000mL down to the serving size so we can compare the mass of pure milk fat to our total fat per serving. That will give us fat by mass (which is the same as fat by weight when measured in our kitchen).

    By volume, I see 45% milkfat, and by weight I see 41% milkfat. Huh? That is well in excess of 36%. Those numbers are very rough because we are working with several measures of low or unknown precision.

    And something else. McAuliflower noticed that our “Heavy Whipping Cream” has no appreciable calcium. Apparently, the calcium is bound to the protein and other milk solids which are not milkfat (those other solids make up some 9% of whole milk).

    Oh well, at least Heavy cream is low on sodium and has a low glycemic load!

    Oh, and the handy unit calculator at the bottom of that page says that 15ml (approx 1 tbsp) of Heavy Cream is 8.6g. If our cream has 6g of fats alone, that would tend to support the theory that our cream is heavier than heavy.

posted January 6th, 2007 at 10:40 pm

Mmmm… time to make some eggnog…

posted January 8th, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Hi there, I’ve just discovered your blog, but I really like what I’ve seen so far so I’ll definately keep reading! I like your comment about not listing calcium in cream. That reminded me of the allergy advise offered on milk bottles in the UK: “Warning: contains milk”. :-)

- Christina
posted January 9th, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Hey, McAuliflower, this is an interesting problem. In Canada, milk is always sold based on fat percentage, which is plainly visible on the carton. Certain percentages are standard: 0, 1, 2, 3.25, etc., all the way to whipping cream at 35 percent.

I was hoping you might be able to provide some insight on how I compensate when I’m unable to find the percentage I need. When I make ice cream, I try to end up with approximately 12-15 percent fat. What I usually do, then, is mix equal parts 10 and 18 percent or two parts 2 and one part 35 percent. I’ve always wondered whether this is a legitimate way to achieve the fat percentage I’m looking for, or whether I’ve missed something crucial. Any thoughts?

- rob
posted January 13th, 2007 at 9:12 am

So fun! all this ice cream talk in JANUARY. :)

posted January 17th, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Okay…here’s my question with regard to the topic. A cup of 2% milk contains 122 total calories & 43 fat calories – equating to 35% of calories deriving from fat. Does anyone know when and by what logic the dairy industry embraced the 2% & 1% nomenclature and what do these numbers truly describe — percent of fat by weight? By volume? Isn’t this just a marketing gimmick that obscures the real information about fat calories? Thoughts?

- Jim
posted January 20th, 2007 at 3:35 am

Rob, simple proportions will do the trick for you, as you thought.

You can probably consider your milk or cream to be homogenous.

By contrast, if you try to pour 50 grams of table sugar into ice cold tea you will notice it doesn’t all disolve. Because it doesn’t disolve, you expect the stuff at the bottom of the glass to be sweeter after you stop stiring. This illustrates the idea that that iced tea is not homogenous. If it was, the sweetness would be the same in any sip (sample) you took.

Our store-bought milk and cream doesn’t behave that way. If you were to take fresh milk and let it sit, you would notice after a while that the milkfat would begin to separate and float. If your milk did that then you could not consider it homogenous and proportions wouldn’t provide an accurate way to blend to the fat percentage you seek.

checking your math:
equal parts 10% and 18% will give you 14%
(1/2 of total measure * 10%) + (1/2 of total measure * 18%) or
(10 * 1/2) + (18 * 1/2) =
10/2 + 18/2 =
5 + 9 =

and two parts 2% and one part 35%
(2/3 of total measure * 2%) + (1/3 of total measure * 35%) or
(2/3 * 2) + (1/3 * 35) =
4/3 + 35/3 =
39/3 =

posted January 20th, 2007 at 3:47 am


I’m not sure and haven’t done the sleuthing yet, but I would immediately suspect that the 2% milk you see is measured as a percentage of mass (or weight). Of course most of the mass of milk is simply water.

FYI “Whole milk” on the shelf contains about 3.25% fat. While it is not an uncommon misconception in the public, 2% milk doesn’t contain 1/50th of the fat of whole milk.

While my thoughts on the ethics of the dairy industry’s marketing teams are none too flattering, I don’t think these percentages were devised to deceive. They provide us valuable metrics by which to plan our homemade ice cream adventures! :)

The idea that 2% milk used to qualify as ‘low fat’ on the other hand. That is just plain deceptive. :)

posted November 27th, 2007 at 8:15 pm

I love Heavy Cream in and on everything. I use a Pint
a week in my Coffee alone, (but, of course I don’t eat sugar) I found this Blog by accident
while trying to find out if heavy cream had any calcium
in it! I find it hard to believe that cream does not
have any at all but…… can not find any evidence of it anywhere ??

Here’s a way to think of it:
calcium is bound to numerous proteins (caseins) that are specifically removed to make heavy cream. With those proteins removed we are indeed left with our heavy cream product that is virtually void of calcium.

It is kind of funny though as we have dairy and calcium so linked in our brains.


- Robin
posted October 11th, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Not to re-hash an old blog, but I just saw this and noticed an error:

The cream from the site mentioned is ALREADY whipped, hence only 8.6g / 15mL, due to air entrainment. Heavy cream is very close to the same density as water or 1g / mL. So, your 6g fat in 15ml (15g) of cream is about 40% fat. Given that there is only one significant digit on these nutrition labels, your true value could range from 5.5 to 6.4 grams of fat or about 36% – 46%. If you truly had 6g of fat per 8.6g cream, you’d be looking at a whopping (not whipping) 70% fat content!

- Cory
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