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[Photograph: Carrie Vasios]

Every year I try to change up my dessert game at Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll swap in one cake or trifle for a pie, or sometimes I'll make a cookie plate to serve with coffee. One extra easy way to add a new touch is to serve flavored whipped cream with your pie. In addition to being unexpected—most people don't think to put maple flavored cream on their pecan pie and that's a shame—you don't have to incur the potential trauma of actually removing the pies from the menu. Want some flavor ideas? Come right this way!

But first, a few reminders to ensure you make awesome whipped cream at home:

  • Use cream labeled Heavy or Whipping Cream (or Heavy Whipping Cream). Light cream doesn't have enough fat to form the requisite peaks.
  • Stick your bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes (or even 15 if you're in a hurry) before using. It will help the cream whip faster.
  • Same goes for the cream. Take it out of the fridge right before you plan on using it.
  • You can use a whisk almost as easily as an electric beater (especially if your ingredients are cold.)
  • Both confectioners sugar and regular sugar can be used as sweetener. The benefit of the former? It dissolves faster.

OK. Now let's get to the amped up version. Making flavored whipped cream starts the same way as making regular whipped cream: place your heavy cream in a bowl and beat or whisk it until soft peaks form. At this point, you add your extra flavors and your sugar. Extracts, like vanilla, almond, or lemon, are a possibility. Booze works too, and spices are fair game. One thing to keep in mind is how sweet your add-in is on its own. Maple syrup doesn't need extra sugar, but almond extract does.

Here are recipes for 5 of my favorite flavored whipped creams.

Maple Whipped Cream: Whip 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons maple syrup (Grade B if possible) and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Vanilla Whipped Cream: Whip 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (again, this is the flavor of the cream, so use the best!) and 1 tablespoon sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Cinnamon Spice Whipped Cream: Whip 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Chocolate Whipped Cream: In a double boiler or the microwave, melt 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips. Let chocolate cool until still liquid but not hot, about 5 minutes. Whip 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Add remaining chocolate and 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Almond Whipped Cream: Whip 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract and beat until stiff peaks form.

About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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