What Is Table Cream? Facts Of The Seemingly-Familiar Ingredient!

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Julia Child once said, “If you are afraid of butter, use cream.” Those were such brilliant words. The problem is, what cream? 

The cream is almost magical. It lends a smooth, rich texture to both sweet and savory dishes and transforms a simple cup of coffee into a fancy hot beverage. As familiar as it is, though, using this dairy product can become troublesome for home cooks, particularly because it takes on various forms. 

Table cream, heavy cream, whipping cream, double cream… The list is endless and probably spinning in your head. Don’t worry, Eatnlivewell got your back! Let’s walk down the dairy aisle, beginning with the question “What is table cream?” first. Scroll down, and you will find everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this delightful ingredient!

A Special Type Of Cream 

What is table cream? – Source: Julie’s Cafe Bakery

Table cream is the most confusing type of cream and, at the same time, the most fascinating one. Baristas would use table cream in coffee and other mixed drinks, while for bakers, this variety is perfect for drizzling atop a warm slice of pie or fresh fruit. It also lends flavors to crowd-pleasing dishes like cheesy mushroom stroganoff and even Monday Night Mac & Cheese. 

Why is this ingredient so versatile, you might ask? To answer this question, you should know what table cream really is!

What Is Table Cream Exactly? 

Like any other “cream”, table cream consists of two main ingredients: Cream and milk. What sets it apart from other varieties is the milk fat percentage, which ranges between 18 and 30%. Take a look at the table below: 

Types of cream  Amount of milk fat
Half-and-half 10.5% – 18%
Table cream 18% – 30%
Whipping cream 30% – 36%
Heavy cream > 36%

As you can see, table cream contains less fat than most types. That’s why we Americans often call it “light cream.” However, this cream is not “light” in the sense of “healthy.” Sure, its fat percentage is lower than whipping cream and heavy cream, but not low enough for those who need to restrict their fat intake. Splashes of light cream can still take your cup of coffee from zero calories to the opposite end of the spectrum, so don’t be too generous, folks! 

Usually, this cream doesn’t include any additives, artificial flavors, or added sugar. It’s nothing more than freshly made, real, and pasteurized dairy cream. Some companies can add other components to improve the quality of their products, though. It’s best to check out the ingredient list before purchasing if you have a sensitive digestive system. 

Table Cream VS Heavy Cream 

Is table cream the same as heavy cream? – Source: Julie’s Cafe Bakery

In most cases, table cream and heavy cream can be used interchangeably. Even the best chefs might have secretly swapped them in their mashed potatoes, and our palates simply can’t taste the difference. Nonetheless, being able to tell them apart will help you get the most out of each type. 

Like I just mentioned, table cream contains anywhere between 18 and 30% of milk fat. This is much lower than the amount of fat in heavy cream, which goes beyond 36%. 

The difference in fat content also affects the products’ tastes and textures: Table cream is mild and light, with a smooth, liquid-like texture. Meanwhile, heavy cream lends a rich and fatty flavor to dishes with its thick consistency. 

Uses Of Table Cream 

Thanks to its exclusive liquid form, table cream is used to enhance the flavor of drinks, desserts, and even main dishes, in a way other types of cream cannot. 

Table Cream In Coffee 

Table cream makes for a wonderful pairing with coffee – Source: Operator Coffee Co

The cold weather is here, and if you crave a cup of coffee with a dollop of luscious goodness, table cream is your savior! Since it’s a liquid, you can pour the cream directly into your drink without having to melt or process it. 

Table cream’s smooth and velvety texture goes well with both hot and cold brews, making your coffee richer and creamier. If you have a sweet tooth, go with the sweetened version of table cream – it will make a great alternative to sugar or any sweetener. Simply add a spoonful of table cream to your hot drink and enjoy your winter holiday! 

Table Cream In Desserts

How about desserts? Taking your sweet treats to the next level is never easier with table cream. Simply drizzle it over a cake or a slice of pie, and your dessert is ready to impress everyone. 

Other than cakes and pies, light cream is often added to custards or pudding. In case your recipes call for condensed or whole milk, you might use light cream as an alternative for an even more indulgent experience. Just be aware of the additional fat and calorie content.

Recipes with Table Cream: Cream Custard

There’s one caveat here: Don’t use table cream to make whipping cream. When making whipped cream, a dairy product needs at least 30% milk fat to create the emulsion effect. Table cream will not foam up when you whip it, so it’s not suitable for desserts requiring whipped cream. 

Table Cream In Soup & Sauce 

Due to its mild taste, table cream is extremely versatile. You can use this ingredient for many things, from sauces to soups and curries. In case you don’t know, it’s a staple in Gordon Ramsay’s classic broccoli soup: 

Broccoli Soup Best Ever Homemade Old Fashioned (Easy Recipe) – Gordon Ramsay

One thing you have to be mindful of while using table cream is the temperature. At high heat, the cream tends to break apart. Here’s a pro tip for you: Don’t ever let table cream reach its boiling point unless you want it to ruin the dish’s consistency! 

So, if you want to use table cream in your sauce, soup, or curry, then add it when the sauce just begins to simmer on the stove. Cook the sauce gently and try not to stir too much – this will help the cream stay intact. 

Another way is to pour in the cream just one to two minutes before removing the sauce from the stovetop. By doing this, you may avoid curdling the sauce while still enjoying its ultra-rich texture. 

How To Store Table Cream? 

Now that you see the magic of table cream, do you want to keep some cartons in the pantry so you can whip up your favorite dish or dessert at any time? That’s a brilliant idea, I’d say, but you will need to know how to store this ingredient.

Before being opened, table cream can stay in the pantry for months. However, just as with other milk products, it’s best to store the cream in the fridge to maintain freshness. Keep it at a chilled, consistent temperature, but don’t let it freeze. 

What if you are left with an opened can of table cream after the party? The first thing is to remove it from the metal can – metal will become rusty if you expose it to moisture. Then, store your cream the same way in the fridge. Don’t forget to use the remaining cream within 4 – 5 days and check to see if it’s spoiled before using. If the cream tastes or smells weird, get rid of it and get a new can from the grocery store. 

Substitutes For Table Cream 

Finally, picture this: You want to add richness to a cup of coffee or a batch of butter chicken, yet you don’t have any table cream at hand. 

An unwanted situation indeed! But don’t panic just yet – one of the alternatives I list below can save the day:


Half-and-half is, without a doubt, the best alternative for table cream in coffee or any other beverage. Although it has much less fat (only 10.5 – 18%) than table cream, its consistency is almost the same. 

If you use half-and-half, you might need to pour in more to achieve the richness and creaminess you desire. Still, its taste is almost identical to table cream. 

Evaporated Milk 

What will you get if you remove the water from whole milk? The answer is evaporated milk! It’s a thick, rich liquid that perfectly replicates the texture of the cream. 

Evaporated milk is a healthy substitute for table cream – Source: Bigger Bolder Baking

Of course, evaporated milk can’t match table cream when it comes to fat percentage. To me, that’s not really a bad thing: The substitute would be a healthier choice for those want to eat well by restricting their calories and fat intake. The best thing is you can still get the rich and creamy tastes in beverages and desserts. Yum! 

Whole Milk And Butter

Compared to table cream, the amount of fat in whole milk is much lower. That’s why we need butter. By combining melted butter with whole milk, the richness will be elevated significantly. You now have a mixture perfect for sauces, soups, and curries. 

As a rule of thumb, for each cup of table cream, add 3 tablespoons of butter to 7 or 8 cups of whole milk. 

How To Make Butter Milk At Home?

The Taste Of Comfort

What is table cream, then? Well, it’s a terrific ingredient to have at your disposal. Table cream can rock any dish, from savory to sweet, and instantly give your palate a luscious and decadent experience. 

On a cold and rainy afternoon, you may crave a hot cup of cocoa or a bowl of chicken soup. Both will hit the spot, but don’t forget to add a tablespoon of light cream – it will make a simple dinner feel like therapy to you!



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