My mother in law used to make tapioca pudding that she then folded in whipped cream I would like to make this for a party but was hoping to do it a day ahead. Can it be done ahead of time and refrigerated
No, unless you use stabilized whipped topping like Cool Whip. Your homemade whipped cream will not hold more than a few hours.
Whipped cream is a classic mix in. Use The Joy of Cooking recipe with the smaller amount of tapioca. It isn't a huge amount so you might consider doubling or making 1,5 the amount which I always do. Whip 1/2 - 1 cup of cream and mix in when the pudding is throughly chilled. It holds reasonably well overnight but for maximum loft you would want to make, chill overnight, whip and fold before serving.