There’s nothing worse than serving up your dessert for a dinner party or a household full of guests, only to find that the whipped cream you’d planned to use as a topping for your final course has spoiled. That’s why it’s always important to make sure you’re aware how long whipped cream lasts for and tailor your plans accordingly.

The short answer to this question is that whipped cream will last anywhere between a couple of hours and four months, depending on the type of cream in question, the container in which it is placed and the environment you choose to store it in. For example, homemade whipped cream that is left at room temperature won’t survive the first few hours, but the same batch can last several months if it is frozen immediately. Here’s a quick cheat sheet guide to keep you up to speed, with the sell-by date used as a starting point for the time involved in each scenario:

ProductBefore OpeningAfter Opening
Homemade whipped creamn/an/an/a1-2 hoursUp to a week2-3 months
Whipped cream in an aerosol can2-3 weeks2-3 weeksn/a24 hours2-3 monthsn/a
Imitation whipped cream in a tub1-2 hours1-2 weeks3-4 months1-2 hours7-10 days3-4 months
Cool Whip creamn/a1 – 2 weeks3 – 4 monthsn/a7 – 10 days3 – 4 months

As you can see, whipped cream in an aerosol can cannot be frozen for any length of period. You should be aware that even other types of whipped cream are not likely to be as easy to work with once they have been frozen and subsequently thawed, with the ingredients beginning to separate and the texture becoming grainy and far from ideal. However, it should still be serviceable for most baking and cooking purposes.

How can I tell if whipped cream has gone off?

Although not infallible, the best judge of whether or not whipped cream has gone off is your own senses. Use your eyes to tell if the mixture has begun to separate and the water is pooling, your nose to detect any unpleasant smells and your tongue to gauge whether the whipped cream tastes right.

How can I extend the life of my homemade whipped cream?

The best way to ensure that your homemade whipped cream lasts as long as possible is to reduce the amount of time it is exposed to ambient temperatures as much as possible. This means either preparing it immediately before serving, or storing it in the refrigerator of freezer as soon as it has been whipped. If you really must store it outside of either appliance, it’s advisable to use ice to reduce its temperature.

It should also be noted that the amount of time homemade whipped cream will survive in the refrigerator depends greatly on the type of container in which it is stored. To achieve the longest lasting results, it’s advisable to use an airtight receptacle which will not allow the cream to become spoiled by exposure to the natural environment. A whipped cream dispenser can be perfect for this.