Whipped Cream on Top: Relish the Flavors of Real Food

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Just because I’m a vegetarian, don’t assume I want a dessert made out of tofu. While I’m constantly trolling vegetarian cookbooks for new recipes for our bed & breakfast, I chuckle — and quickly close the book — when I hit the final dessert chapter where the writers often seem obligated, given the vegetarian nature of the cookbook, to present a collection of “healthy” desserts involving flax seeds, whole-wheat flour and tofu.

On the other front, cruise any supermarket aisle and you’ll be deluged with fat-free, chemical-laden attempts at guilt-free desserts. Neither option appealed to my dessert palette or what a dessert represents in my book: a sweet indulgence, a finale to a relished meal, something real.

Real butter, real cream cheese, real food. Ecological nutritionist Joan Gussow put it succinctly: “As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.” I agree, craving direct connections to our food source, be it the cow or a crop.

This happened to me when I craved a Frozen Mocha Torte (recipe below) and bought a couple pints of heavy whipping cream from Organic Valley Family of Farms, a cooperative of organic farmers based in my home state of Wisconsin. When I opened the container, the thick cream had congealed until it looked like cream cheese. The cream had no sour odor and didn’t appear to have gone bad, so I called Organic Valley’s 800 number on the carton.

I quickly connected with a friendly customer service rep who enlightened me that when real cream sits on a shelf, unaided by a slew of preservatives, it will naturally congeal. While Organic Valley readily offered money back for those cartons, they assured me that if I just stirred the thickened cream for a couple minutes it would return to normal consistency. And so it did.

Despite my affinity for baking and all things made with whipped cream, and the fact that I proudly claim residency in America’s dairyland, the sight of real cream sent me calling customer service. Despite my efforts to eat better, I apparently needed a customer service compass to identify real whipping cream.

But good news flourishes through a surging buffet of opportunities to connect with real food by buying directly from growers or producers, largely side-stepping corporate America. From farmer’s markets to small-scale artisianal cheesemakers, from family or cooperatively run dairies to beekeepers, scratch the surface in any community and there’s a growing number of opportunities to buy real food directly from real people and companies, like I discovered with Organic Valley, who openly answer questions and help educate. Sure the aged cheddar may crumble or the whipped cream congeal — that’s a sign of real and hopefully a burgeoning reality in our food system.

Frozen Mocha Torte

The ultimate freezer weapon, I keep a Mocha Torte in the freezer to have on hand when chocolate cravings arise or company pops in. While it looks appealing to kids, with the mocha flavor, grow-ups tend to gravitate to this dessert.


1 1/2 c. chocolate wafer crumbs (about 24), divided

1/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. butter, melted

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

2/3 c. chocolate syrup

2 T. instant coffee granules

1 T. hot water

1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped


* Combine 1 c. water crumbs, sugar and butter. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a heavily buttered 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

* In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, milk and chocolate syrup until smooth. Dissolve coffee granules in hot water; add to cream cheese mixture.

* Fold in whipped cream. Pour over the crust. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs.

* Cover and freeze for 8 hours or overnight. Uncover and remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving. Serves 10-12.

9 thoughts on “Whipped Cream on Top: Relish the Flavors of Real Food”

  1. I’m a big fan of REAL desserts, served on occasion, and enjoyed with passion. We buy our cream, milk, half and half, and when I can afford it, butter from a local dairy that is all grass fed. I always find a bit of cream clotted on top, and I am guilty of dipping a finger into that before I shake up the bottle. Oh, is that good. Even the milk is just BETTER. I like the grassy taste. Which explains my affinity for European and artisan cheeses over the standard stuff.

  2. Lisa, I respect your opinion, but question your claims that using tofu and flax seeds is not using “real food.” Or the implication that desserts can’t be made vegan and made good. At the Green Options holiday party, we had two vegan tofu-based pies that were a huge hit. And anyone who ate my vegan wedding cake this summer would surely agree that dairy-free desserts are just as good if not better than those laden in butter.

    I won’t get into the ethical and health concerns of a dairy heavy diet. I’ll simply say that it’s by no means essential to a tasty, environmentally-friendly meal of any kind.

  3. I don’t like to go dairy-heavy, but I still like real half and half in my coffee, and the occasional whipped cream. I’m having a blast eating vegetarian.

    We bought some of the Organic Valley heavy whipping cream this weekend. Most of the kids ate it straight; me, my wife and our pre-teen dipped fresh strawberries into it. Mmmmmm.

    Thanks for the mocha torte recipe. We’ll try it out this weekend!

  4. looks like sharon pretty much said what i was about to say. but i just want to add that there are delicious non-dairy milks made not only from soy, but from nuts and coconuts, not to mention oats and hemp. (almond milk is my favorite, and you can even make it at home using just almonds, water, and perhaps dates and vanilla for added sweetener and flavor.) these are all “real” foods that can be used to make really delicious animal-secretion-free desserts. we need to start educating the public about this rather than reinforcing the myth that a diet compassionate towards animals need rely on processed, chemical-laden “foods”.

  5. Thanks for the comments. Sharon, come over and bring cake — sounds delicious. My own diet is pretty vegan day to day with a little cheese sprinkled on (par the course of living in the cheese-producing mecca of Wisconsin perhaps). I just prefer my daily dose of flax seed ground up and sprinkled over my morning oats, reserving “dessert” for that less traveled category of indulgences. I completely agree we as a nation eat too much (and, needless to say, the wrong kind of) dairy. When I indulge, I’ll take Organic Valley whipped cream. Never Cool Whip — which is what I was referring to moreso as “not real” food. “Non-dairy whipped topping” — isn’t that an oxymoron? Lisa

  6. Indeed, Millie. I was going to mention that Coconut milk often works great in desserts, and is so rich that no one could argue that it’s not an “indulgence.”

    I think using the term “real food” treads on dangerous ground if we’re not defining it. It’s the same way we balk at products being billed as “natural” when there’s no industry standard.

  7. i’m definitely a dairy addict and would eat almost anything w/ cream on top! i agree that i trust cows more than chemists. great point. i’m going to have to try this one. thanks!

  8. You should definitely try Natural By Nature aerosol whipped cream. It is made with all organic ingredients and is produced from small family farms that are completely sustainable. What a delightful treat!!

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