Pour cream into a well chilled bowl (could be the bowl of your mixer). Stir in sugar and vanilla.
Using your mixer (I find a hand mixer works great) or a whisk (ouch, do you really want to do that to yourself?), start out on a slow speed so you don't end up sending cream flying around the kitchen. Gradually increase speed as the cream begins thickening.
It should take about 3 or 4 minutes for it to reach a stiff consistency. If it starts to look like it's clumping, STOP immediately, you are half way to butter!
Refrigerate until ready to use.
YIELD: 2 cups
Chocolate: Press 2 tablespoons powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon cocoa through a sieve and into 1 cup of heavy cream.
Coffee: For each cup of whipping cream, add 2 teaspoons instant coffee and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
Alcohol flavors (bourbon or rum): For each cup of whipping cream, add 1 tablespoon liquor and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.