Chantilly Cream is the Secret to Decadent Desserts

Upgrade your holiday desserts with this vanilla-scented cream

If you go to a fancy French restaurant, you’ll likely see a dessert listed with “Chantilly Cream” as a garnish. But when your tarte tatin arrives, you might be a little surprised to find a quenelle of whipped cream atop your slice. So what’s the deal with this Chantilly business? Is it a real thing or just some marketing ploy to justify a pricier dessert? 

What Is Chantilly Cream?

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The History of Chantilly Cream

It turns out that Chantilly, which is a form of whipped cream, has a history that goes back centuries. Legend has it that the sweet fluffy, vanilla-scented cream originated with chef Francois Vatel in the 1670s, as part of an extravagant banquet for Louis XIV at the Chateau de Chantilly. Sadly, distraught over a mishap with the fish delivery, Vatel infamously took his own life during the banquet and was not around to witness the success of his sweet invention. Considering that sad fact, it’s probably better that the cream was named for the castle where it was first consumed and not after the poor chef who invented it.

How to Make Chantilly Cream

Chantilly is a lightly whipped cream, lightly sweetened, and delicately flavored, often with vanilla but also with ingredients like rum. The sweetening typically comes from powdered sugar, which dissolves completely on contact with the cream so there is no graininess. The cream is whipped to soft peaks for a lush texture; this is not a stiff cream that can be piped. Chantilly is a terrific topping for almost any dessert, but works especially well on rich desserts like chocolate tortes or caramel tarts where an unsweetened cream would be too big a contrast with the bittersweet chocolate or caramel. It’s also a simple, effective way to bring a bowl of fresh fruit or berries to their highest level of deliciousness.

Chantilly cream is easy to make. Start with cold heavy cream, and a chilled metal mixing  bowl and beaters. For every cup of cream, add a tablespoon of sifted confectioners’ sugar and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract or other flavoring extract. Whip the cream with a whisk attachment in your stand mixer or with a hand mixer to soft peaks. It’s best to finish the cream by hand to ensure it does not get overwhipped. 

Chantilly is best used right after it is made, and is not stable at room temperature. If you want to make your Chantilly ahead of time, you can stabilize it by adding one to two tablespoons of crème fraiche or sour cream per cup of heavy cream. Add the créme fraiche to the cream about halfway through the beating process, and you should have a Chantilly that will hold well for a few hours, so your dinner party pies and tarts are as fancy as those in any French restaurant.

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