Smooth Mascarpone vs Buttery Clotted Cream

Mascarpone vs Clotted Cream

Whether it’s your love of clotted cream or a hankering for mascarpone that’s brought you here, you’ve come to the right place.

Of course, they’re both delicious and wildly popular the world over. They’re used in scrumptious dessert delights and savory staples alike but are they more similar to each other than different?

That probably depends on how you’re trying to define those similarities and differences but we’ll definitely be talking about a little of both.

What makes them somewhat similar to each other is their texture which is very close to a mix of cream cheese and butter. The distinction is clotted cream has a surface layer, or crust, which is a byproduct of its manufacturing process whereas mascarpone does not.

The primary difference between them, although it’s a close one, is the taste. Mascarpone is lightly sweet with a hint of tanginess whereas clotted cream, while also somewhat sweet, doesn’t have any tangy notes to it but a nutty, milky finish which can be attributed to the process used to make it.

While there are indeed differences, it’s possible to substitute one for the other as long as you’re mindful of the subtle variations in taste.

With that said, let’s take a deeper dive into the delectable dairy deliciousness and see what we find!

Differences in Origin and Evolution

The Lombardy region is renowned for its lengthy heritage as Italy’s premiere dairy producer accounting for over 30% of the entire production in the country.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that this area is also responsible for the creation of mascarpone cheese which first appeared during the 17th century.

The etymology of the word, “mascarpone”, is not entirely known, but it’s believed to have originated from the term “mascarpa” or a close equivalent to it, “mascarpia”.

Mascarpa is actually a type of milk produced from the whey of stracchino, which is a cheese unrelated to mascarpone. As for mascarpia, it’s not a dairy product itself but a term used by locals to describe one you might be familiar with – ricotta cheese.

Interestingly, ricotta is thought by many to be a close substitute for mascarpone even though it’s not derived from cream like mascarpone is but whey.

Clotted cream is a uniquely British phenomenon today even though its historical origins are believed to have roots in the Middle East. Approximately 2,000 years ago, the earliest versions of clotted cream made their way to English shores and quickly became a part of the country’s cuisine.

This was most notable in the predominant dairy farming region of the country in the southwestern counties of Devon and Cornwall. To this day, it’s still a subject of great debate among the residents which county can truly lay claim to its creation and the controversy shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

History aside, the appetite for clotted cream has never been greater!

In fact, the nation’s largest producer of it – Rodda’s – has been manufacturing it by the ton since the late 1800s. In 1998, the company received a special protection from the European Union that designated their product as official Cornish clotted cream.

Known as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), this method of authenticating foodstuffs states that in order to qualify, milk used to create the cream must originate in Cornwall. It must also have a minimum fat concentration of 55%.

Product Region Description Etymology Substitute PDO
Mascarpone Lombardy Italy’s premiere dairy product Believed to have originated from the term “mascarpa” or a close equivalent to it, “mascarpia” Ricotta N/A
Clotted Cream Devon and Cornwall A uniquely British phenomenon Historical origins believed to have roots in the Middle East N/A Milk used to create the cream must originate in Cornwall, minimum fat concentration of 55%

Differences in Taste and Texture

Clotted cream is most often eaten as part of cream tea where it’s spread on to scones and topped with jam. As you might expect, anything that spreads easily is going to be compared to everyone’s favorite – butter – and to many, clotted cream is a close cousin.

The only exception is the crust which is the richest part of the cream since the fat makes its way to the surface where it collects. You will definitely experience a grainy texture and mouthfeel when taking a bite of this heavenly, full fat component of the cream.

As for flavor, most describe hints of nutty sweetness. Probably that distinctive taste is a result of the milk’s cooking time.

Mascarpone can best be described as bringing together two beloved favorites  – butter and cream cheese – and blending them into one irresistible dairy delight.

What sets mascarpone apart from clotted cream in terms of taste is a hint of acidity on the tastebuds, followed by notes of subtle sweetness.

As you can see, the taste profiles are quite dissimilar but since their mouthfeel is close to one another, substitutions are possible.

Clotted Cream Mascarpone
Spreadability Easily spreadable Spreadable
Texture Grainy Smooth
Flavor Nutty sweetness Acidity and subtle sweetness
Similarity to other products Butter Butter and cream cheese
Substitutions Possible Possible

Differences in Manufacturing

Prior to today’s mass production methods which we will discuss in a moment, clotted cream was produced using a very simple process.

Fresh milk was cooled for several hours which allowed the cream to accumulate at the surface. From there, it was heated in a bain-marie (water bath) which caused the cream to coagulate, or clot, hence the name. Once the clots formed, they were skimmed from the surface.

The most widely used modern methods are known as “float cream” and “scald cream”. 

The float cream method uses shallow trays which are rapidly heated once a layer of floating double cream in milk has been added to them. This method scalds the trays with steam or water cream for about an hour before allowing it to cool for approximately 12 hours prior to separation and packaging.

The scald cream method is similar to the float cream method but with a couple of key differences. Rather than heating milk, a pre-separated cream layer is used before being cooked at a lower temperature. Once completed, the resultant cream is cooled and packaged.

Mascarpone is made from cream, but in order to use it, the cream must first separated from another component of milk which is known as whey. To achieve this, the mixture is first heated and then a process known as acid setting is used. Acid setting involves the addition of either lemon juice or citric acid to the warm mix.

The addition of these mechanically separates the whey from the cream. The result of this simple process is a fresh batch of mascarpone in a matter of days.

Clotted Cream Mascarpone
Traditional Method Cooling and heating in a bain-marie N/A
Modern Method Float cream and scald cream Acid setting
Float Cream Method Rapidly heated shallow trays, scalded with steam or water cream for 1 hour N/A
Scald Cream Method Pre-separated cream layer, cooked at lower temperature N/A
Separation Method Skimming Acid setting
Cooling and Packaging 12 hours After acid setting

Differences in Use

Mascarpone is almost exclusively used as an ingredient in desserts, most famously tiramisu and cheesecake. However, it also adds another dimension of creaminess to cold or hot savory dishes.

The most popular usage of clotted cream is in cream tea, an English tradition but especially in the counties of Devon and Cornwall where it’s believed to have originated. Traditionally, the tea is served alongside scones.

Clotted cream is spread on the scones and then topped with strawberry jam.

Clotted Cream Mascarpone
Popular Usage Cream tea (spread on scones) Desserts (mainly tiramisu and cheesecake) and savory dishes
Origin Devon and Cornwall, England Lombardy, Italy

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