Reusing that Jar: Making Whipped Cream

Okay, let me get this out of the way right now: I’m kind of a hippie. Ok, I am a hippie. I live without a microwave, a working dishwasher, or a hand mixer. I also love to cook. Being a poor grad student, and a little low-tech, but still wanting to try out the latest recipe for mint-lemon crème brûlée (or whatever Martha Stewart is up to these days) means I have to get a little creative in the kitchen.

Whipped cream is one of those delicious accents of sweetness that makes nearly any dessert go from good to mind-blowing. If you’ve ever had homemade whipped cream, then you know it tastes way better than whatever you can squirt out of a can. So, how on earth did Mom, or Aunt Josie, or Grandpa Steve, ever get cream to fluff like the clouds baby angels live on? They probably used an electric mixer. But I’ll tell you a secret: You can use a mason jar instead. (Extra bonus: buffed arms!)

Yes. That’s right. A mason jar. You know, like a jam jar, one of those things that all the hipster kids (including me) are using as drinking glasses and vases right now? They totally make great travel mugs, flower vases, containers for leftovers, and pencil holders… but that’s another article. Or five.

Back to whipped cream—let’s talk about how this works:

What you need

  • One (clean!) mason jar (or an old tomato sauce jar, applesauce jar, or really any glass jar with a tightly sealing lid)
  • A freezer
  • Heavy whipping cream (often sold in pints, like the mini milk cartons you used to get in elementary school)
  • Powdered sugar (totally optional, often labeled “confectioner’s sugar”)
  • Vanilla extract (also totally optional)

What to do

1. Put your clean glass jar in the freezer—with the lid off—for 15 to 20 minutes before you need to make the whipped cream. (This step isn’t entirely necessary, but it’ll help your cream get fluffier faster.)

2. Take the jar out of the freezer and fill it no more than halfway full with cream. If you fill it more than halfway, the cream won’t have enough room to expand and won’t reach its optimum fluffiness.

3. Here’s where you can add the powdered sugar and vanilla if you’d like. A tablespoon of powdered sugar should be plenty, but it depends on how sweet you want it to be. (No measuring spoons? A tablespoon comes out to be about as much as a rounded average spoonful.) A teaspoon of vanilla extract is enough (about 1/4 of an average spoonful).

4. Now the exercise comes in! (Who said dessert can’t be healthy?) Screw the lid tightly onto the jar, and shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake that… jar. Vigorously. (Make sure the lid is securely screwed on, otherwise you could end up in the whipped cream version of the Marine World splash zone.) You can even take turns with friends—passing around a jar of cream and making Shake Weight jokes is an excellent way to wait for those brownies to finish baking.

5. The time it takes for your cream to become fluffy goodness depends on how hard you shake that thang and the size of your jar. You’ll know it’s getting close when the cream coats the sides of the jar and makes it hard to tell how full it is.

6. Check after 5 minutes or so of quality shaking, and every few minutes after that. A larger jar—like a quart jar or an applesauce jar—can take a little longer. It’s whipped cream when it’s so fluffy that it doesn’t pour or drip out of a spoon easily. (Sometimes I’m impatient, and I only wait till it’s fluffy but still pourable—a great option if you’re serving it over fruit, ice cream, or pudding, etc.)

Editor’s Note: In an effort to fulfill our goal of road testing some of our articles (and because whipped cream in a jar is ridiculously delicious), Elise and I attempted to follow Heather’s instructions. We discovered that over shaking can lead to undesirable (and inedible) curdling. (Not to be confused with curling—a winter sport popular in Canada.) This can happen quite suddenly. Be careful to check your cream every 15 seconds or so after it starts to coat the sides of your jar. (Seriously, don’t over shake. When you think it’s done—STOP! We can tell you, bickering over the appropriate fluffiness level does not end well.)

7. If you need more whipped cream, spoon and scrape what you’ve got out of the jar into a bowl, wash the jar, and repeat until you have enough for everyone.

8. Enjoy!


If you have leftover whipped cream: store it in the jar or another airtight Tupperware-style container in the fridge. It’ll keep for a few days, but will be iffy after more than a week. Besides, who can let whipped cream sit for that long without devouring it?

If you don’t use your heavy whipping cream before the “use by” date: you’re outta luck. I tried freezing my heavy whipping cream once… it was in a glass bottle, and I opened the freezer to find the bottle cracked and frozen to the cream. Then I tried defrosting the cream, even straining out the shards of glass, in an effort to salvage the situation. (I would not recommend this.) It ended up being something in between butter and milk and not all whippable.

If you want to get fancy with your whipped cream: go ahead! Experiment with adding a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg when you add the sugar and/or vanilla. (A dash is one shake of the spice jar, if it has a lid with little holes, OR a mound—a little smaller than the size of a dime—in your palm.)

Photo by Meaghan Morrison

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  1. Wait… curdling and curling aren’t the same thing?…

    Nice article Heather. I’ll have to try this on my brownies some time soon :)

  2. thanks for the article my friends thought I was crazy trying to whip cream this way, it didnt work but I think I had too much in the jar. btw the photo for the article is 3.2 mgbs which is far to large for web use

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