This is a picture of an unfinished pie. But I wanted you to see the piped whipped cream around the edges. I love flavored whipped cream on cupcakes in particular. I think it gives them such a light touch in place of the heaviness of frosting. The problem with whipped cream is it tends to melt into a big mess when out of the fridge. The solution is to stabilize your whipped cream.
This whipped cream can be piped through a pastry bag and will stay relatively firm for several days or up to a week! It should be kept in the refrigerator both before piping, and after (therefore you'll need to keep the whole dessert in the refrigerator until serving). However, when ready to serve it will be fine at room temperature for several hours. (Actually it would hold shape just fine probably all day, but you don't want food poisoning or anything- so for that reason, put it back in the refrigerator as soon as possible.)
This method is great for summer when whipped cream melts all over the place, and it's great for Thanksgiving when you want to top your pies with decorative whipped cream. (The best part is, the whipped cream can stay on the leftover pie in the refrigerator and will be just as beautiful and appetizing the next day!)
You can add fruit purrees or cocoa to flavor the whipped cream if you like. I particularly enjoy chocolate whipped cream on a chocolate cupcake. This recipe yields enough whipped cream for about 1 pie. If you are doing 24 cupcakes or a cake you'll want to double it.
ETA: I can't believe I forgot to comment on the taste! I honestly could not distinguish the addition of the piping gel in the whipped cream (And I am the type that will "taste" things that aren't there if I'm looking for it). The texture is slightly different because it's not quite as soft but it's hardly noticeable.
Stabilized Whipped Cream
Recipe adapted from Wilton-1 cup heavy whipping cream
-1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
-2 Tbsp Wilton piping gel (You can find this at a craft store or sometimes at Walmart in the baking section. It comes in a little tub.)
-1/2 tsp clear vanilla extra (You can use regular but your whipped cream won't be a true white)
-Optional: 1/2 cup pureed strawberries or raspberries, or 2 1/2 Tbsp cocoa for flavor
(If you use cocoa- be sure to sift it into the cream- just measure it into a small strainer and shake it into your bowl, otherwise you will have bitter cocoa lumps in your cream.)
A great tip for making whipped cream is to use a metal bowl and metal beaters and place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes before whipping. The cold bowl really helps whip the cream quickly and make nice fluffy peaks. I recommend doing this every time you whip cream.
Instructions:Combine whipping cream and sugar in cold mixing bowl. Whip to soft peak stage. (When you turn your beater off, and pull it straight out of the cream, it should make a little peak that droops at the top).
Add piping gel and vanilla, (and pureed fruit or sifted cocoa if desired), then continue to whip to stiff peaks. (Pulling the beater straight up and out yields a peak that stands up straight like a mountain and stays there.)
Be sure to taste your cream. Add a little more sugar or vanilla if desired. If you're doing cupcakes you may want them a little sweeter, if you're doing a cream pie, you may want to hold back on the sugar. It is completely up to you!
Do not overbeat. If you start to get lumps in your cream you have overmixed. Continuing to beat will yield butter. If you notice lumps, stop your mixer immediately. Sometimes you can salvage your whipped cream by adding a little bit more unwhipped cream from the fridge and beating just until smooth. Sometimes it's a lost cause and you'll have to start over.
When cream is whipped to soft peaks, spoon into a pastry bag and pipe onto your dessert. After decorating, keep dessert in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It is best to use within a day or two but it will stay stiff for up to a week!
(You could also just keep your pastry bag full of whipped cream in the refrigerator and decorate right before serving. This is great for times when your refrigerator is too full to fit a bunch of cupcakes or pies.)