Is the cream, once whipped, supposed to hold up for a long time? Refrigerated or not? Will people be helping themselves or will someone be plating? Using powdered sugar should stabilize it for a little while because of the cornstarch in the sugar. You might even add just a little more by sifting it with the powdered sugar before you add it to the cream. I don't recommend gelatin because it completely changes the texture of the cream. I don't really care for cornstarch (or even powdered sugar) either, but would prefer it over gelatin. One way I've been able to hold whipped cream for longer periods of time without any stabilizers is by placing it in cheesecloth on top of a rack or a strainer. This allows the liquid to drain from it, leaving the air bubbles trapped in the butterfat to remain. You might be able to do this. If you get a mettal ring, stretch a piece of muslin or double layer of cheesecloth over it and secure it. Then you can lay this at the bottom of a bowl leaving some air space beneath the ring for drainage.
Normally, I whip the cream in ice bath to soft peaks and then fold in superfine sugar. By the time the sugar is folded in, the cream should reach firm peaks. The sugar will stay grainy for only a moment before it dissolves into the cream. I never dissolve the sugar in the liquid cream before whipping because it never whips as fluffy. And I always whip by hand. During the winter menu, I had to whip close to two gallons of vanilla bean infused cream every five days by hand. The pastry chef insisted that this is the only way to do it because the mechanic motion of the machine makes the butterfat coagulate too rapidly so we get unevenly whipped cream. And because it is whipped unevenly, the liquid will cause the ceram to deflate faster. We were able to keep hand whipped cream in a container in the walk in for five days with no drainage. Amazing.
I don't think there's any way to hold whipped cream outdoors or even indoors on a hot day. perhaps you might want to use those new canisters for whipped cream. They look like a thermos but have some sort of gas bullet you insert to add pressure. Then you squeeze the nozzle and get whipped cream (like readi-whip).
[ June 29, 2001: Message edited by: monpetitchoux ]