Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes
Place cream in the chilled bowl. Sift in the powdered sugar.
Add vanilla extract, or if you are using vanilla bean: Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with the tip of a sharp knife. Holding the pod open, scrape the seeds using the flat side of the knife. Transfer the seeds to the cream and discard the pod.
If you are using a stand or electric mixer, turn it on to a low setting to start beating.
As the cream begins to thicken turn up the speed to a medium setting and beat until the cream reaches the desired consistency.
Soft peaks are achieved through about 5 –6 minutes of mixing on medium speed. The peaks flop over immediately when the beaters are lifted. This consistency is perfect for topping on beverages, classic English scones, pancakes or waffles.
Stiff peaks are achieved through about 8 minutes of beating on medium speed. Stiff or firm peaks stand straight up when the beaters are lifted. This is the perfect piping consistency. It pipes beautifully over cakes and because of the firm consistency, holds its shape for many hours.
Please keep in mind that the time the cream gets to the desired consistency is just an estimate and will depend on the power and speed of your beaters.
Use the cream shortly after whipping: Use the cream shortly after whipping. Avoid leaving the whipped cream at room temperature for long periods of time. Warm cream deflates quickly and can turn watery.
Store unused cream in the refrigerator: Store unused whipped cream in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The refrigerated whipped cream usually loses its soft airy texture after a few days. Whip it for about a minute to reuse for frosting or piping.