The question of who invented whipped cream and the mechanisms and cream supplies that are a quintessential part of coffee shops and desserts the world over is one that lawsuits have been fought over.
Charles Getz and G. Frederick Smith officially have the patent for using nitrous oxide as part of a whipping siphon, but Marshall Reinecke also has a claim for a very similar system.
Ultimately, both were found to be valid, but the history of whipped cream goes back considerably further than the 1930s. Several hundred years before a patent war for the right to whipped cream, early culinary experts in Italy and Belgium were devising recipes to make whipped cream dishes.
The earliest forms, known as cream snow, were found as early as 1549 in the writings of Cristoforo di Messisbugo and consisted of sweetened cream or milk, whipped to make it foamy and often served with strong smelling fruits, wines or liqueurs to give it a particularly profound aroma.
Similar dishes were also made by Bartolomeo Scappi and Lancelot de Casteau, but arguably the very earliest known written example of a whipped cream dish appears in a 1545 cookbook.
Named “A Dyschefull of Snow”, this dish also included whipped egg whites, rosewater, sugar and apple for flavouring, and was whipped with a willow branch to get its distinct foamy soft texture, that would be skimmed off and drained, a process that could take over an hour at times.
It would take until the industrialisation of the food industry at the end of the 19th century for this to change, with the development of centrifuge separators that allowed for thicker, high-fat cream that was much better for making whipped cream.
Typically it was served in a fashion similar to a mousse, typically in a pyramid alongside other fruits, coffee, liqueurs and chocolate.