What is table cream? It’s a rich and creamy liquid used in cooking and baking. Learn more about this ingredient in this comprehensive FAQ!
Ever wondered about table cream while browsing the dairy aisle? This creamy component, often overshadowed by its more popular counterparts, has its own special place in cooking and baking.
This article breaks down what table cream is, its varied uses in recipes, and how it differentiates from other dairy products. Toward the end, we’ll share a few alternatives if you’re unable to find this ingredient for your recipes.
What Is Table Cream?
Table cream, or light cream in some regions, is a dairy product derived from milk, with a fat content typically ranging between 18% to 30%.
It’s produced by skimming the higher-fat layer off fresh milk, resulting in a creamy texture that’s less thick than heavy cream but richer than half-and-half.
Its mild and velvety flavor makes it a favorite for enhancing soups, sauces, coffees, and desserts where a full-bodied, but not overly heavy, texture is desired.
Table Cream vs Heavy Cream
Table cream and heavy cream are both dairy products that come from cow’s milk, but they have distinct characteristics that set them apart:
Table cream has a fat content that ranges from about 18 to 30%. This makes it less thick than heavy cream. Heavy cream, on the other hand, contains not less than 36% fat, allowing it to whip well.
Table cream is used in beverages and light cooking, while heavy cream is for whipping and richer dishes like sauces and ice creams; its high fat helps prevent curdling when heated.
Table cream is lighter in consistency and doesn’t feel as rich on the palate, while heavy cream is thicker and richer, which contributes a luxurious texture to dishes.
Due to its lower fat content, table cream won’t whip up as thickly as heavy cream and may not hold its shape as well. Heavy cream can be whipped to achieve soft to stiff peaks, making it ideal for desserts and toppings.
While one cream can sometimes replace the other in recipes, it’s important to note their roles. For example, table cream can’t replace heavy cream when whipping to stiff peaks is needed.
Table Cream vs Half And Half
Table cream and half-and-half share some common uses, but there are key differences between them. Here’s a comparison:
As mentioned, table cream has a fat content ranging from about 18% to 30%. Half-and-half, as the name suggests, is made from equal parts of whole milk and cream, resulting in a fat content that typically ranges from 10% to 18%.
Table cream is used in coffee, desserts, and some recipes for a medium-rich feel. Half-and-half is also added to coffee and tea and is used in cooking and baking, but it’s lighter than table cream.
Due to its higher fat content, table cream is thicker in consistency than half-and-half. So, half-and-half has a lighter texture.
While table cream doesn’t whip effectively, it can add a creamy texture to recipes. On the other hand, half-and-half also can’t be whipped into peaks due to its lower fat content.
While it’s possible to swap one for the other in recipes, it can change the dish’s texture. For instance, using half-and-half instead of table cream might make the dish less creamy.
|Attribute||Table Cream||Heavy Cream||Half-and-Half|
|Fat Content||18% to 30%||Not less than 36%||10% to 18%|
|Usage||Beverages, light cooking||Whipping, richer dishes (sauces, ice creams)||Coffee, tea, cooking, baking|
|Consistency||Lighter, not as rich||Thicker, richer||Lighter than table cream|
|Whipping Ability||Doesn’t whip up as thickly, may not hold shape well||Can be whipped to soft to stiff peaks, ideal for desserts||Can’t be whipped into peaks|
|Substitution||Can’t replace heavy cream in whipping recipes||Can sometimes replace table cream, but not when stiff peaks are needed||Can sometimes replace table cream but may result in a less creamy texture|
How To Use Table Cream
Table cream has a moderate fat content that gives dishes a creamy texture without being overly rich. Here’s how you can use table cream:
- Coffee or tea. It’s a richer alternative to milk for lightening your coffee or tea.
- Soups and sauces. Enhances creamy soups and sauces; thickens gravies.
- Desserts. Mix with fruits, use in custards, ice creams, or with chocolate.
- Baking. Adds moisture to cakes, used in pie fillings, and makes pastries tender.
- Dairy substitute. Replace half-and-half; dilute with milk if needed.
- Cocktails. Ingredients in creamy cocktails and liqueurs.
- Eggs. Add a splash to scrambled eggs or omelets for a creamier texture.
- Cereal/oatmeal. A drizzle can enrich your morning bowl of granola, cereal, or oatmeal.
- Smoothies. Add to smoothies for a richer taste and creamy texture.
How Long Does Table Cream Last
Table cream typically has a “best by” or “use by” date. If kept in the fridge, it should stay fresh until this date, or a bit longer if the fridge is at or below 40°F.
Nestlé has included a “Best if Used by Date” on their Media Crema can, indicating that it is advisable to consume the product by the specified date for optimal quality.
For opened table cream, it should be consumed within 5 to 7 days for the best quality.
How To Tell If Table Cream Has Gone Bad
Like most dairy products, table cream can go bad if it isn’t stored or handled properly. Here are some signs to help you determine if table cream has gone bad:
- Check the “Best By,” “Use By,” or “Best If Used By” Date. Always start by checking the date indicated on the container. If the cream is past this date, it’s best to discard it.
- Smell test. Give the cream a sniff. Fresh table cream should have a mild, creamy, and slightly sweet aroma. If it smells sour, rancid, or off-putting in any way, it has likely gone bad.
- Visual inspection. Look for mold or strange growth on the cream’s surface. Mold means the cream is spoiled, so discard it. Also, if the cream has separated into clumps or has a watery layer at the bottom, it might be bad.
- Texture. Fresh table cream should have a smooth, uniform texture. If it appears curdled, chunky, or grainy, it’s a sign that the cream has spoiled and should be discarded.
- Taste test (optional). Although it’s not advised because of the risk of eating spoiled dairy, you can take a small taste. If it tastes sour, bitter, or bad, spit it out right away.
Table Cream Substitutes
If you’re looking for substitutes for table cream, you have several options, depending on your personal preferences and the intended use:
Half-and-half contains equal parts of whole milk and heavy cream, typically with a fat content of about 10 to 12%. It’s a good substitute for table cream in coffee, soups, and sauces.
Use half-and-half as a 1:1 replacement for table cream.
Whole milk contains approximately 3.25% milkfat, which is lower than table cream, but it can still provide that creamy texture. You can use it as a substitute in baking or certain sauces where a slight decrease in fat content is acceptable.
Use it in a 1:1 ratio.
If you want a richer substitute for table cream, heavy cream is a good choice. It contains around 36 to 40% milkfat, making it thicker and more decadent. Dilute heavy cream with a little water or milk to achieve a consistency closer to table cream if needed.
Use heavy cream as a 1:1 substitute for table cream.
Evaporated milk is a canned milk product with about 60% of the water removed, which results in a thicker and creamier texture. You can use it as a substitute for table cream in soups, sauces, and desserts such as cookies, but it may have a slightly different flavor.
Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio.
Cashew cream is a homemade alternative to dairy cream. To make it, blend soaked cashews with water until you achieve a creamy consistency. It works well as a dairy-free substitute in recipes that call for table cream.
Start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust if needed.
The bottom line
Table cream is a dairy product known for its rich and creamy texture. It’s used in a wide range of dishes, from soups to desserts, thanks to its high fat content. Its ability to enhance flavor and consistency makes it a kitchen essential, inspiring culinary creativity and delighting palates in cooking and baking.
- Half-and-Half – 1:1 ratio
- Whole Milk – 1:1 ratio
- Heavy Cream – 1:1 ratio
- Evaporated Milk – 1:1 ratio
- Cashew Cream – 1:1 ratio
- Replace table cream with one of our 5 recommended options.
- Use one of the above ratios when substituting for table cream in a recipe.