Epistemic status: Jeff missing the point

The supermarket sells various kinds of fancy butter, but why don't people eat whipped cream instead? Let's normalize to 100 calorie servings and compare prices:

  • Plain Butter, store brand: $0.10
  • Heavy Whipping Cream, store brand: $0.20
  • Fancy butter, Kerrygold brand: $0.30

Perhaps the reason people don't normally use whipped cream is that whipping it is too much trouble? If you use a manual eggbeater in a standard sixteen ounce deli cup it takes about fifteen seconds (youtube) for a serving.

Alternatively, maybe people think whipped cream has to have sugar in it? This one is simple: whipped cream should not have sugar in it. If you're eating whipped cream on something sweet it doesn't need sugar because the other thing is sweet, while if you're having it on something savory it doesn't need sugar because that would taste funny.

I'm sure I'm missing something, but I'm very happy over here eating whipped cream.

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The supermarket sells various kinds of fancy butter, but why don’t people eat whipped cream instead … I’m sure I’m missing something

In addition to what has been already said, another thing you’re missing is that butter isn’t only used by simply eating it; it’s also used in cooking and baking. In the latter case especially, the whey in the cream will ruin almost any recipe where you attempt a direct substitution of whipped cream for butter.

Yes, in baking you should definitely not substitute whipped cream for butter, that would go very poorly.

But there's rarely any advantage to fancy butter in baking either, unless you're making something like croissants where the butter is a main component of the final flavor.

But there’s rarely any advantage to fancy butter in baking either

Indeed there is; the difference is not primarily the flavor, but the composition.

The composition of fancy butter isn't very different: something like 82% fat instead of 80%. Again if you're making croissants this matters, but not if you're making, say, chocolate chip cookies or cake.

Differences in composition are about more than just a couple of % more or less fat by weight. The texture and taste of Hotel Bar butter is quite different from that of Land O’Lakes, etc.

Our local store brand is 11g fat, 7g of which is saturated, no trans fats: https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/lucerne/sweet-cream-butter

Same as Kerrygold: https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/kerrygold/pure-irish-butter

(I don't know whether Hotel Bar is a fancy butter or not, or whether you're in favor of high trans fats in your butter)

Hotel Bar is a cheap brand.

grin! I love this kind of analysis, thank you for challenging my assumptions!

But I'm confused why you're eating whipped cream rather than plain butter. Given you're only looking at one dimension (cost per calorie), why not go even cheaper?

Just to spoil the answer - it's the same as why you might prefer fancy butter to whipped cream, or to cheap butter: the composition is actually different. Cream still has some whey in it, and whipping it just suspends it, where fully churning or overwhipping it separates it out so the remainder is purer fat.

And fancier butter is basically starting with a richer-fat cream, and processing it such that the butterfat is purer than in cheap butter.

In summary: butter is better than whipped cream (for some things)? no whey!


Cream still has some whey in it, and whipping it just suspends it, where fully churning or overwhipping it separates it out so the remainder is purer fat

One interesting thing you can do in order to separate the whey from the fat in cream is (something very much like) freeze-distillation.

There is a cold spot in my refrigerator (not the freezer!) where the ambient temperature is approximately 25 °F. If I put a carton of heavy cream there, in several days the contents will have largely separated—there will be a solid chunk of milkfat, and some liquid whey.

Having drained the whey, I can then beat the milkfat with an electric mixer. This causes the remainder of the whey to separate out (due to centrifugal force); after draining this remnant whey, I am left with butter.

There is a cold spot in my refrigerator (not the freezer!) where the ambient temperature is approximately 25 °F.

If part of my fridge were below freezing I would find that very frustrating, but it sounds like you've figured out how to use it to good effect!

But I'm confused why you're eating whipped cream rather than plain butter. Given you're only looking at one dimension (cost per calorie), why not go even cheaper?

Mine is definitely a simplistic analysis, but I'm looking at two dimensions: taste and cost. I'm arguing that since whipped cream is both tastier and cheaper than fancy butter it makes a much better condiment.

Most of the disagreement seems to be over whether whipped cream is actually tastier, which is totally fair.

Having to clean an eggbeater is a dealbreaker for me.

(that said I don't really use fancy butter either)

The advice in this post is based on very flawed assumptions, but if you’re inclined to take it anyway (or to do something else in this vein), then note that there’s an easier way than using such a complex contraption as an eggbeater.

You will need the following:

  1. 2-cup-capacity Pyrex measuring cup (image).

  2. Large wire whisk (image).

Pour no more than 3/4 cup cream into Pyrex measuring cup. Hold whisk vertically, with its business end fully immersed in the cream, and with the handle between the palms of your hands. Move your hands back and forth vigorously, so as to roll the whisk between your palms.

This will whip the cream, in relatively short order (though not as quickly as if you used an electric hand mixer).

This still sounds like it's the bucket of "I have turned on 'cooking' as a broader action that I'm doing". (which is not always a dealbreaker, I enjoy cooking sometimes, but often a dealbreaker no matter the action)

True enough!

Your first comment implied that it’s the annoyance of cleaning the eggbeater, specifically, that was problematic; hence my reply. (Your actual concern is clear now, of course, though my suggestion may perhaps still benefit others.)

This sounds slower than using an eggbeater, without being any faster to clean up?

A wire whisk is easier to wash. You can put it in your dishwasher, for example, or fully immerse it to soak, etc., without worrying about water damage to any components.

EDIT: But yes, the way I described is definitely slower than using an eggbeater. My actual preferred solution for making whipped cream is to use an electric hand mixer, which is faster than either manual option.

You can put it in your dishwasher, for example

We'll put our eggbeater in the dishwasher. It's stainless steel and it seems fine.

If it eventually breaks we can get a new one; they're very cheap used.

an electric hand mixer, which is faster than either manual option

I'd be surprised if it was faster after accounting for needing to get the hand mixer out and assemble it? Whipping a serving of cream by hand took me 16s (I timed it for this post)

We’ll put our eggbeater in the dishwasher. It’s stainless steel and it seems fine.

The eggbeater in the image you use in your post appears to have wooden parts (the handle).

needing to get the hand mixer out and assemble it

Well, where you store your hand mixer is obviously up to you; if you use it often, keep it in a convenient place—just as with the eggbeater. As for assembly, it takes mere seconds.

The eggbeater in the image you use in your post appears to have wooden parts (the handle).

Yup. But we've been putting it in the dishwasher for years and it's doing fine. It will eventually lose its handle, but it's about $2 at the thrift store.

(As I wrote above, though, for whipped cream in particular I usually do it by hand)

I typically run the eggbeater under hot water while turning it slowly. While you normally need soap to clean greasy surfaces, the fat in cream is suspended in the water in a way that keeps the whole thing water-soluble and it comes right off. It takes maybe 15s.

You can keep butter in your fridge for weeks and it will stay fresh enough to use. (If you're fussy you can scrape off a thin layer of slightly-oxidized butter from the surface.) You can't do that with cream. That doesn't matter so much if you have shops where you can conveniently buy fresh cream every week, which is pretty common these days but maybe used not to be.

As others have said, cream contains a lot more water than butter does. If you spread whipped cream on your toast, I'm pretty sure you'll get soggy toast.

Butter keeps approximately its consistency for much longer than whipped cream does. If you make sandwiches with whipped cream and take them to work or school for lunch, I'm pretty sure you'll end up with not-at-all-whipped cream making your sandwiches soggy.

If you're specifically buying fancy butter, you may want the flavour of fancy butter. This is not the same as the flavour of whipped cream. (Just how different depends on exactly what sort of fancy butter.)

It's not so easy (I think) to whip up cream in very small quantities. That "serving" looks to me like a distinctly larger amount of cream-or-butter than I'd want in contexts where I'm using butter but not cooking with it.

Generally, I'm not very sure why you would use whipped cream instead of butter. I mean, OK, it's a bit cheaper (if you ignore wastage and effort and so forth), but so are many other things: water, flour, sawdust. And while clearly whipped cream is more like butter than water, flour and sawdust are, I don't see that it's so much like butter as to serve the same purposes. It doesn't have the same taste, the same consistency, the same balance of nutrients, the same anything.

Generally, I'm not very sure why you would use whipped cream instead of butter.

This post is based on my (apparently not universal!) understanding that whipped cream is far tastier than butter.

Tastiness (for me) isn't a scalar thing. You want different tastes in different contexts. (In some sense chocolate is far tastier than butter, but there are many purposes for which I would use butter and would not consider using chocolate. The same is true of bacon. I'm not sure there's any purpose for which chocolate and bacon are both suitable replacements for butter.)

I'm not sure there's any purpose for which chocolate and bacon are both suitable replacements for butter.)

Both would be tasty on toast. Even simultaneously!

Fair. (Apart from the bit about having them simultaneously.) I didn't think of that because I wouldn't generally eat toast with nothing on it but butter.

You can keep butter in your fridge for weeks and it will stay fresh enough to use. (If you’re fussy you can scrape off a thin layer of slightly-oxidized butter from the surface.) You can’t do that with cream.

Yes, you absolutely can do this with cream. Cream doesn’t go bad for quite some time—it can easily keep for 2 or 3 weeks, even longer. (In fact, I have never seen cream go bad—though I haven’t deliberately tested it, the point is that your cream accidentally going bad is very unlikely.)

Hmm, interesting. When I buy cream (from a supermarket; I guess they are very cautious) the date they put on it is generally about one week in the future. I've taken their word for it and bought it not too long before I need to use it. I should do some experiments...

Where are you? In the US cream is generally UHT pasteurized, but if you're somewhere where that's not common your cream won't last as long.

I'm in the UK. Dairy products here are commonly pasteurized, but to me UHT means something much more extreme which spoils the flavour and I certainly wouldn't expect cream to be UHT-ed. Is cream really UHT by default in the US? Ewww.

UHT for cream isn't as bad as it is for milk, and it can be done more or less well, but typically all the cream at grocery store, including the organic stuff, will be UHT: https://www.peapod.com/product-search/heavy whipping cream

I love this take. You're out here living in 3020. Also, I never get to use my eggbeater these days, so I'm excited to try this.

Alternatively, maybe people think whipped cream has to have sugar in it? This one is simple: whipped cream should not have sugar in it. If you’re eating whipped cream on something sweet it doesn’t need sugar because the other thing is sweet, while if you’re having it on something savory it doesn’t need sugar because that would taste funny.

This is false. You forgot about an entire basic flavor: sour.

Obvious counterexample to your claim: whipped cream on berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.). Do the berries taste sweet? No, not really (even the sweeter cultivars / crops don’t contain enough sugar to be “dessert”-level sweet). Are the berries “savory”? No. Does sweet whipped cream “taste funny” on berries? No, it tastes exactly perfect.

(Other examples in the same vein: Key lime pie; blueberry/peach cobbler—recall that it’s usually served with either sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream—which is certainly sweet.)

This is probably another preference thing, but I'm quite happy to eat plain whipped cream on plain berries (or Key lime pie, or cobbler). They're all plenty sweet as is.

Note, however, that in the case of cobbler or pie, you can reduce the sugar in the dessert itself, compensate partly by sweetening your whipped cream, and thereby achieve both a reduction in total sugar content, and a more complex flavor profile.

That's fine if you like it, though I would like it less. I really enjoy the contrast between the cool smooth unsweet whipped cream and the strongly flavored warm sweet cobbler.