Whether you’re serving up bowls of summer berries or slices of ice cream cake, a dollop of freshly whipped cream makes everything better. Here’s how to get perfect results every time—nothing fancy required.

Chill Out: Before you start whipping, make sure everything—your bowl, your beaters, and your heavy cream—is as cold as can be. Why? The colder the cream, the better it will hold its shape.

Add Some Flavor: Depending on how you’re planning to serve it, you may want to leave your cream entirely unsweetened or dress it up with some sugar or other flavorings. A tablespoon of sugar is generally sufficient to mildly sweeten 2 cups of cream (which will double in size when whipped). And adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract, orange blossom water, or bourbon to the mixture can also be a lovely touch.

Go Slow: Turn on your beaters, but don’t rush things: start off on a low speed and move the beaters around the bowl in a figure eight pattern. After a few minutes, the cream should begin to form soft peaks—a pillowy, light texture that’s great for topping puddings, cobblers, and crisps. Keep beating a few minutes more to reach the stiff peak stage—you’ll know you’re there when the cream holds its shape when you scoop up a bit with the beater. This firmer consistency is great for topping pies and cakes. Just take care not to push it too far—beat too long, and you’ll wind up not with whipped cream, but butter!