Making a batch of whipped cream at home seems super simple, doesn't it? After all, it only calls for one ingredient—or two, if you mix in sugar for extra sweetness. And more, if you’re adding flavor like vanilla, citrus zest, or maybe even black pepper. But the idea of whisking heavy cream for a few minutes to make homemade whipped cream seems foolproof, right? Until you realize you’ve made butter instead. And that’s definitely not what you wanted. You just can’t bring yourself to top your pancakes and hot cocoa with the aerosol can stuff or tubs of “whipped topping,” so you must master the art of making whipped cream from scratch. Here’s how to avoid common whipped cream mistakes and fix over-whipped heavy cream

First and foremost, make sure you’re buying whipping cream or heavy whipping cream. Skip the light cream. It refuses to hold its form and it doesn’t whip as thick as the heavy kind. Another thing to keep in mind is that cold cream whips better and faster. Professional chefs recommend pouring the cream into the bowl you’re using to whip and placing it in the freezer for 8 to 10 minutes—no longer than that, or else you’ll have a bowl of frozen cream.

Once the cream and any other flavoring ingredients are in the bowl, start whisking. Whether you’re whipping by hand, or using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer, the steps for making whipped cream are all the same. The only difference is the intensity of the arm workout you’ll be getting. Start whipping at low pace, and gradually increase the speed. Once the whisk begins leaving a visible line in the cream while it mixes, lower the speed and mix until soft peaks form. How do you know if you’ve reached soft peaks? Turn off the mixer and lift the whisk. If the cream on the end stands up and then flops over a bit, you’re golden. 

If you’ve over-whipped cream to the point where it’s grainy, that’s totally OK. You can still save it without starting over. Just add a few more tablespoons of heavy cream to the bowl and whisk together. But if butter curds form and the whey separates from the cream, that’s the point of no return. Continue whisking it and enjoy some freshly whipped butter within the next week.