Throughout the rest of the German-speaking world, whipped cream is called Schlagsahne, but the Viennese call it Schlagobers, which translates into something like “very-well whipped.” Whipped cream is a very important ingredient in the daily life of a Viennese; a dab goes on top of coffee or tea, or alongside the afternoon snack, or, unsweetened, as a garnish for soup.
First, use high-quality cream (pasteurized, rather than ultra-pasteurized) with a high butter-fat content (36 to 40 percent), which whips up thick and fluffy and has better flavor. Your natural food stores might carry such a cream, or look at old-fashioned dairies.
Use very cold cream straight from the refrigerator in a chilled metal bowl or place the bowl in a larger bowl of iced water.
For sweetening, confectioners’ sugar is preferred to granulated sugar because the small amount of cornstarch in the former discourages the weeping that occurs when whipped cream stands for longer than a few hours. A hint of vanilla is imperative.
Learn to distinguish between the stages of whipped cream; it doesn’t always have to be stiff. As a garnish for a dessert, the goal is softly beaten Schlagobers that barely mound. When used for piping, cream should be whipped to the stiff stage. Of course there is an in-between stage, too, used for when the cream is the base for a torte filling. Take care not to overwhip the cream, at which point it has a coarse, grainy texture and is well on its way to becoming butter.
A balloon whisk will give you the most control over the whipping process, but most people prefer an electric mixer. A hand mixer is best, because the strong motor of a standing mixer makes it difficult to gauge the whipping progress and can quickly overwhip the cream.