I used to think that heavy cream and whipping cream were the same product simply marketed under different names. Now, after a bit of research and a few tests in the kitchen, I’ve learned that there are differences—albeit slight—between these two types of cream.
Heavy cream is the richest type of liquid cream with a fat content of at least 36% (one local dairy I spoke to produces its heavy cream at 39%), while whipping cream contains between 30% and 36% fat.
In general, the more fat in the cream, the more stable it will be for whipping and for saucemaking. For whipping, you need a minimum of 30% fat. While both whipping cream and heavy cream whip up quickly, I did discover that whipped cream made with whipping cream was softer, more voluminous (25% to 30% more), and more enjoyable spooned on top of desserts. The whipped cream made with heavy cream was more dense and firm—making it a good choice for piping through a pastry bag.
In saucemaking, the minimum amount of fat required to prevent cream from curdling when boiled with acidic and savory ingredients is 25%, so again both creams qualify. Heavy cream, however, has the advantage here since it is a bit more unctuous and requires less time to cook down to thicken and enrich a sauce.
The final difference is that heavy cream has 5 more calories per tablespoon than whipping cream, and it costs 5 to 10 cents more per pint.