Make your topping real good

Have you seen the Reddi-Wip commercial that’s been running on television? They’ve timed it to run this time of year when pumpkin pie is being jotted down on the planned menu for many Thanksgiving Day cooks. Every slice of creamy pumpkin pie needs a dollop of topping, right?

In the commercial, a woman is seated at the counter at a diner. When she orders pie, the waitress holds up a can of Reddi-Wip in one hand and a plastic tub of topping in another. “Oil or cream?” she asks.

The viewer knows very well the plastic tub represents the light-as-cotton candy whipped topping that can be found in the freezer case at all supermarkets. And, no matter what brand it is, the frozen topping is usually referred to as Cool Whip.


When Cool Whip was introduced to the public in 1967, my mom went nuts over the whipped cream look-alike. My mother, who grew up eating real food on a farm in Indiana, snubbed the thick liquid cream as she marched right past the cartons of thick white liquid on the shelf in the dairy case and headed straight to the freezer, tossing a couple of plastic tubs of frozen whipped topping into her grocery cart. Maybe it was the convenience that appealed to her — no bowl or beaters to wash, just pop open the plastic top and scoop out the whipped water, sweeteners and oils. I’m sure she did not know it was made of oil. I’m sure she never would have used it as the topping on her pies or the dip for fresh strawberries. I’m positive.

In 2007, Patrick Di Justo wrote a piece about Cool Whip for Wired magazine. He basically deconstructed the fluffy whipped mixture made mostly of water and, like any whipped topping, lots of air. Hydrogenated oils give the whipped topping a creamy mouth feel. Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup make the mixture sweet. A few other ingredients that are familiar to chemists but not necessarily understood by the average consumer help extend the frozen dessert topping’s shelf life, add sweetness and creamy texture.

It’s really hard for me to call this frozen dessert topping real food. I tell people this as I pour heavy whipping cream into a chilled bowl and beat it up with an electric hand mixer equipped with chilled metal beaters during cooking demonstrations. I immediately read reactions of disbelief on some of the faces in the crowd.

The first ingredients listed on a can of Reddi-Wip are cream, water, sugar and corn syrup. But, as the television commercial makes clear, there are no hydrogenated oils in the can.

So, before I share any recipes for pumpkin desserts this year, I’m sharing an easy recipe for whipped topping that is made with real food. It’s as perfect with pumpkin pie as peanut butter is with jelly.

Whipping cream is beaten with a small amount of buttermilk and a dash of sugar. Buttermilk gives just a whisper of tang that is unexpected to the taste buds. I got the idea for adding buttermilk to whipping cream when it was served with some pancakes and fresh berries at a restaurant in Chicago where I recently had brunch.

Buttermilk Whip is wonderful with a thick slice of Caramel Apple Bundt Cake that ran in my column last week. The topping on Apple Kuchen in Disguise? Buttermilk Whip.

So, my suggestion this pumpkin-pie season is to ask your diners, “Cream or cream with buttermilk?”

Buttermilk Whip

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Put all ingredients into a 4-cup glass measure. Whip until fluffy and thick.

12 thoughts on “Make your topping real good

  1. The real deal is so much better! I’ll look forward to trying the buttermilk addition,great suggestion…
    I love using my iSi whipped creamer with CO2 cartridge. (Just like they use in the coffee shops.) It’s instant,fun and real!

    • I’m with you, Elizabeth. Real whipped cream is the BEST! I wouldn’t be without my iSi cream whipper, either. I’ve had it for years. I keep plenty of cartridges on hand.

  2. Pingback: Buttermilk Whip and Recipe Roundup | The Heavy Table - Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog

  3. It always frustrates me when someone puts on a delicious, from-scratch Thanksgiving meal made with all real foods, and then the finale is a glorious slice of pumpkin pie with a glob of Cool Whip on the top. Why does this product slip under people’s radar as real food?! Thank you for this PSA and for the delicious recipe that I’m now anxious to try.

  4. Love your article and will make the whipped cream today. I have also added
    maple syrup for a rich tasting whipped cream.

  5. We don’t have dessert that often so anything that requires a whipped topping only gets real whipped cream or why bother. This twist on whipped cream was a big hit at my house. The buttermilk gave a nice little tang. Plus it has to cut the calories a little bit right? I did add a little vanilla just to round it out. Thanks Sue I don’t think I’ll ever do plain whipped cream again.

  6. Yes! I’m convinced that when these convenience foods came out, it was in sheer joy at the thought of having to do less work that convinced people to use fake food. But life was all-around more difficult then. We have so many luxuries today, why not put a little more work into real, good food?

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