When Test Kitchen Director Sarah Jampel first mentioned that she was developing a whipped cream cake a few months ago, I thought I knew exactly what she meant. I pictured a yellow cake crowned with a fluffy cloud of whipped cream.
I was wrong.
Sarah wasn’t putting whipped cream on her cake. She was putting it in the cake.
What is whipped cream cake?
Everything you need to know about this cake is right in its name — whipped cream cake is a yellow cake made with whipped cream. But crucially, the only fat in the cake is the whipped cream — no butter or oil. And there’s no other liquid, either — just eggs (and vanilla and almond extracts, of course).
To make it, heavy cream is beaten until it reaches stiff peaks. Next you beat in sugar, then eggs, yielding a billowy, creamy mixture. Finally, the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) are beaten in. No creaming butter, no folding in whipped egg whites, and no alternating flour and milk to mix. It might be one of the simplest cakes there is.
With her new recipe, Sarah is tapping into a bit of history — whipped cream cake is a vintage recipe that traces its roots back to the first half of the 20th century. Some versions include butter in addition to the whipped cream and are baked in a Bundt pan, yielding a denser, richer, more pound cake-like dessert. The version Sarah was inspired by, however, is made with just whipped cream and eggs for a lighter, more delicate result. She first spotted it in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, where the legendary baker described it as an “unusual recipe” and an “old classic and established technique.”
Why does whipped cream make great cake?
Whipped cream is like a two-in-one combination of both butter and milk, so it seamlessly replaces them both in a cake recipe. And actually, it’s an improvement. “With cake, butter can sometimes feel like a struggle,” says Sarah. “No matter how much you add, it’s never as tender or moist as you’d like. You have to worry about it being at the right temperature, or at what point to finish creaming. It just feels tricky.”
With this recipe, that’s not the case: “If you can whip cream, you can make this cake.”
What’s more, whipping the cream before making the cake batter creates air bubbles that give it a light, fluffy texture, much in the same way creaming butter and sugar does. “Using the aerated whipped cream means that you’re starting with a super light base,” explains Sarah.
And because the cream adds plenty of fat, the slices are soft and plush with a fine, velvety crumb — Sarah describes it as “lighter than a pound cake but just as rich. It’s buttery in texture, even if there’s no butter in it at all.” In other words, the platonic ideal of a yellow cake.
A whipped cream dream
Traditionally, whipped cream cake is a simple affair, needing nothing but a dusting of confectioners’ sugar to serve. But Sarah was inspired by another cake classic: crunchy, gooey Danish Dream Cake (Drømmekage). Featuring a thick topping of shredded coconut and brown sugar, this cake is a texture-lover’s dream, adding some welcome crunch to the super-soft cake base. Sarah amped things up even more with a ribbon of fudgy chocolate running through the center of the cake, giving it serious Girl Scout Samoa cookie vibes.
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.