There are various types of cream, some more suitable for savoury dishes and others for desserts. Here are the most common types:
Creme Fraiche is a naturally soured cream popular in French cooking. It has a high fat content of 30%-45% and is more sour than yoghurt, but less sour than Sour Cream. It is also naturally thicker than Sour Cream, and less likely to curdle when heated. So crème fraiche a better choice for Western and European sauces or soups, or cooked desserts such as panna cotta. In cold salads or as topping on sweet or savoury dishes you can use either crème fraice or Sour Cream interchangeably – it just depends on whether you prefer the tangy flavor of Sour Cream or the rich smoothness of crème fraiche.
Heavy or Thickened cream is whipping cream containing a thickener such as starch to make it more stable. It holds its shape better for decorating cakes. Minimum fat content 35%.
Pouring cream is also known as pure cream or fresh cream. It is made from fresh milk and has no additives. Fat content is 35%, mainly saturated.
Sour Cream is a thick, commercially made sour cream with 20-30% fat content. It is sometimes made with thickeners such as seaweed extract, to add bulk. It adds a tang to savoury and sweet baking, cakes and is also often used as a topping for Western soups, meat stews and potato dishes. It is sensitive to heat and can curdle or break apart if overheated, so it is often just stirred through the soup or stew at the end, after the dish has been taken off the fire.
Thick cream is often used for Western baking, or as a dessert topping. It has 48% fat content
Adapted from The Singapore Women's Weekly.