Recently, people have started asking me to make things for parties that they’re having, which is exciting, and terrifying, and exciting. And terrifying.

Why is it terrifying? Well, for one, I have a bigger audience of potential critics, who, since they are not limited to my friends and family, will feel less compunction about being harsh on me. Also, when you only bake for yourself, there are no hard deadlines. If you don’t feel like making cookies that day, who cares? When somebody is expecting 350 truffles, though, you can’t tell them that you just didn’t feel like cooking because you had a headache that day. You break out the chocolate and starting chopping. Third, my desserts have always had a kind of… ‘homemade’ look. ‘Rustic’, if you will. Decidedly not French patisserie-worthy. For events, the bar for appearance is set somewhat higher.

Fortunately, I have an ace-in-the-hole party trick. Because whipped cream makes everything better.

No, I don’t mean the kind of whipped cream that comes from a can, and if you thought that was what I meant, shame on you. I mean the kind that you whip yourself. Because you’re making it yourself, it has no crazy weird chemicals in it. Have you ever tried those alcohol-filled whipped creams? I can’t pronounce most of the chemicals on the label. Which hasn’t stopped me from spraying them directly into my mouth, but let’s not talk about that! At home, when I want a dessert to have a little something special, I make some softly whipped cream and throw in a teaspoon or so of an appropriate spice. For spicy chocolate desserts (my favorite), that will usually be cinnamon. For shortcakes made with rhubarb compote and ginger scones (recipe soon!), I whipped up some cream with cardamom. Then I throw in a few tablespoons of creme fraiche, for slight tang and to help the whipped cream stay billowy. Otherwise, after a few hours, it will deflate, leaving you with a totally embarrassing puddle of cinnamon-scented liquid.

The recipe attached is only one of the ways that I made special whipped cream. Here’s another: remember the infused creams that I used to make the chai scones and saffron scones? Those would make pretty dynamite fancy whipped creams. I’ve also been known to take a page out of Joy the Baker’s handbook and grind up some freeze-dried berries (you’ll need about 1/3 cup ground) to make strawberry whipped cream.

Homemade whipped cream is, for me, the difference between something I would make for myself to eat at home and something that I would give to someone else to serve at a party. If any leftovers get spooned directly into my mouth, nobody needs to know but me.