I want to make a cake and the recipe has a double cream filling. I'm in France and it's impossible to buy double cream, or whipping cream, as we would normally find in the UK. What would you use, especially when making sweet recipes, as a substitute?
Cream needs a minimum of 30% fat content to enable it to whip. We believe that the closest equivalent in France is creme entiere (sometimes labelled as creme liquide entiere or Creme Fleurette de Normandie). Look for a brand such as Elle et Vire which is in a cardboard carton with a plastic screw top. Some of the supermarkets also sell own-brand creme entiere (such as Lidl) in the chilled section. We suggest that whichever one you buy you always first check the fat content which should be stated somewhere on the packaging, as less than 30% fat is unlikely to whip.
As French cream is at the lower end of the fat scale (vs double cream at around 46% fat) the cream will be more difficult to whip so make sure that it is thoroughly chilled before trying to whip it. You will also need an electric mixer (hand-held one is fine or stand alone mixer with a whisk rather than a paddle) and if possible cool or chill the bowl you are using. It will take longer to whip than double cream (though keep an eye on it as it can be over-whipped) and once the cream has reached soft peaks you can whisk in a couple of spoonfuls of mascarpone, if you like, to make it richer. If you are making one of the no-churn ice creams or a syllabub then make sure the cream is whipped before adding any extra ingredients and whisk them in a little at a time.
If the whipped cream filling is a sweetened cream then you can buy a sachet of creme fixe chantilly (found usually in the baking section). It is a powder that you add to the cream to help thicken and stabilize it when whipping so it may be useful if the filled cake needs to stand around for a while. However the powder contains sweeteners and flavourings as well so it may not be suitable in this case.