Creme Brulee is the perfect make-ahead dessert that will impress your guests! A silky, smooth vanilla custard topped with a layer of brittle caramel, that is easier to make at home than you think. This classic French dessert is very do-able and so delicious!
Creme Brulee is my favorite dessert! I really could eat this decadent treat every day. The contrast of the hard caramelized topping and the smooth and creamy vanilla custard is what makes this “burnt cream” so special and delicious.
Whenever I make this recipe everyone goes crazy for it! It actually tastes like in a fancy restaurant but is surprisingly easy to make at home. It’s perfect for special occasions and parties because you can make it a few days ahead, keep it chilled in the fridge and then add the sugar and torch it just before serving.
This makes a really impressive and memorable dessert for your guests! And yes, you really need a blowtorch in my opinion! I own one just for Creme Brulee. Putting it under a broiler might caramelize the topping but it also warms the custard and easily burns your French masterpiece.
Tips & Tricks for Making Creme Brulee at home
- Put the filled ramekins in the baking dish but don’t fill the baking dish with water until you’ve put it in the oven. It’s so much easier to fill the dish with water in the oven!
- Use a thermometer to check if the custard has the right temperature! You want it to be just set (about 155°F), overcooking the custard results in a weird eggy texture. I use this instant-read thermometer.
- Don’t cover the ramekins for the first hour in the fridge to avoid condensed water dripping into the custard. Cover them with plastic wrap after 1 hour.
- Use a small kitchen torch for caramelizing the topping! Using a broiler isn’t a good idea in my opinion because it’s unreliable and you can easily burn the whole thing.
- I prefer using 2 tsp of sugar for the topping because I love caramel. If you want a thinner crust only use 1 tsp sugar.
What to do with leftover egg whites?
Leftovers egg whites are perfect for Coconut Macaroons or check out this helpful article from the Kitchn.
How to make Creme Brulee
Making Creme Brulee from scratch is not hard! Baking it in a water bath (called bain-marie) might sound intimidating but it really is easier to do than you think.
The first step is heating the cream. If you want to use a vanilla pod instead of vanilla extract let it steep in the cream while it is cooling down to 165°F. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together, then add the cream, vanilla extract, and orange liqueur. Pour the mixture through a sieve and divide it between the ramekins.
Put the ramekins in a large enough baking dish and transfer the pan to the oven. Fill it with hot water and bake the vanilla custards for about 50-55 minutes, until the edges are set and the center is slightly jiggly like Jello. If you have an instant thermometer (I highly recommend getting one) stick it in the center of a ramekin, it should register between 150° to 155°F.
Then remove the pan carefully from the oven and remove the ramekins from the water bath. This works best with a folded tea towel or oven mitt. Let them cool for 30 minutes at room temperature then transfer them to the fridge but don’t cover them! After one hour wrap each ramekin with plastic wrap and chill for up to 3 days.
Now comes the best part! Torching them! Sprinkle the chilled vanilla custard with 1-2 tsp sugar. I like to use 2 tsp but my husband prefers a thinner layer so I use 1 tsp for his Creme Brulee.
Now comes the scary part. Did I mention I’m a little bit afraid of fire?! But even I can do it so you should have no problems. Hold the torch flame 2-3 inches from the top of the custard and slowly glide it back and forth over the surface until the sugar caramelizes and turns a deep golden brown.
Don’t torch it too long (because you don’t want to warm up the custard) but long enough so that all the sugar is caramelized.
Don’t let the caramelized Creme Brulee sit too long because the top layer will otherwise soften and get sticky. Serve it immediately! I like to do the torching in front of my guests that makes it easier for me and everyone enjoys the experience.
Looking for more impressive but easy to make desserts?
- Easy Lemon Curd Mousse
- Chocolate Mousse Cake
- No Bake Oreo Cheesecake Parfaits
- Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Tools Used for Making Creme Brulee
Kitchen Torch: I highly recommend using a torch for this recipe! It makes it so much easier to caramelize the topping.
Ramekins: These ramekins are perfect for creme brulee but they are quite pricey. I have a big collection of small glass ramekins that came with store-bought desserts and are the perfect size.
Thermometer: I love this Instant-Read thermometer! It’s cheap and perfect to check the temperature of things like a roast, turkey, chocolate or creme brulee. Everyone should have one of these in their kitchen!
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Classic Creme Brulee Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, (360ml)
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar, (50g)
- 1 Pinch salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp Grand Marnier, optional
- 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C) and position the rack in the center.
- Put four small (5oz.) ramekins in a baking dish that's at least as deep as the ramekins.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a simmer then remove it from the heat, cover, and let cool for 10 minutes (the temperature should be no higher than 165°F or 73°C).
- In the meantime, combine egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Whisk until combined.
- Then slowly add 1/2 cup of the warm cream to the sugar-egg-mixture while stirring constantly. Stir for 30 seconds with a whisk.
- Then slowly, with a light hand stir in the remaining cream. You don't want the mixture to be frothy!
- Add the vanilla extract and orange liqueur (if using) to the bowl and stir lightly until combined.
- Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a measuring cup with a spout then divide it evenly between the ramekins.
- In a large pot or teakettle bring water to a boil. Transfer the baking dish with the ramekins to the oven. Then slowly pour hot water into the baking pan until the water comes about 2/3 up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to get any water in the ramekins.
- Cover the baking pan loosely with aluminum foil.
- Bake the custards for about 50-55 minutes, until the edges are set and the center is slightly jiggly. If you have an instant thermometer stick it in the center of a ramekin, it should register between 150° to 155°F (65° to 70°C).
- Remove the baking pan from the oven and carefully take the ramekins out of the water bath. Let them cool at room temperature for 30 minutes then transfer them to the fridge (don't cover them). Once they are refrigerator-cold wrap them with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before proceeding.
- Prior to serving, sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over each custard, one at a time. Tilt and tap the ramekin to even out the layer of sugar.
- Hold a torch flame 2-3 inches from the top of the custard and slowly glide it back and forth over the surface until the sugar caramelizes and turns a deep golden brown.
- Allow the sugar to cool and harden for 30 to 60 seconds, and then serve immediately.
If the heavy cream is 7.5 cups then it will not be 360ml it will be more 360ml is for almost one cup
Julia Foerster says
This recipe calls for 1.5 cups of heavy cream, not 7.5 cups.
Ann Long says
I’ve made this several times over the last few years. Every time it comes out perfect. Almost makes it hard to order at restaurants now that I can make it at home. So thrilled to have this on my Christmas Eve dinner menu yet again this year!
I really love this recipe and would love to know where you purchased the clear ramikens. Been looking for a set and these are perfect! Do share
Julia Foerster says
I think they came from a premade dessert I bought at Costco.
Zara A. says
Beautifully written instruction with lots of helpful hints.
Martha Lowe says
My mama used to make “baked custard” for holidays and special occasions. She added Christmas seasonings. She didn’t like to use the broiler, so she made a rich butter and brown sugar (think almost caramel)drizzle to add after custards were plated.
She also loved boiled custard!
Such a versatile, smile producing dessert. Thank you!
If I don’t own a torch ( because I don’t know how often I would use it ! ) can I broil it instead ?
Julia Foerster says
Yes, but keep an eye on it and don’t broil it for too long, otherwise the custard gets warm.
Randee Hendrychs says
I just made your recipe and it turned out fabulous. Thank you so much. We love Creme Brûlée so this will be made often.
Gemma M says
I make your recipe for the first time but my mother use to make and she always put nutmeg,cinnamon and ground cloves so I added the spices in it and it taste like the one I grow up with
I accidentally over whipped and it went frothy. Will it be spoiled?
This recipe worked amazing! Made it for the first time for a date and it turned out prefect I was worried and had a back up dessert and it won’t be needed.
Theresa Lovett says
Julia I am about to try your recipe for creme brulee, but I would love to have the ramekins to serve it in would you please share with me where I might be able to get them.
Julia Foerster says
Target usually has lots of little oven-safe ramekins. Walmart or any big grocery store usually also carries a selection of ramekins.
I followed this recipe and my creme brûlée is way too over cooked, I looked at a few other recipes and they all say to bake for 30-40 minutes. I think maybe you should reduce your cooking time?
Julia Foerster says
The cooking time always works for me so I’m not sure why it was overcooked. If you use smaller or shallower ramekins or your oven runs hot, the cooking time will be shorter that’s why using a thermometer is recommended. Most of the recipes you are referring to that call for a shorter cooking time, also call for a higher oven temperature.
LIDA D. says
EVERY STOVE & OVEN WORK DIFFERENT, THUS YOU MUST ADJUST~~~!!! ;-)
Great recipe ! One egg and 1/2 cream per 7.5 oz ramekin is what I found for yield
Allison Miller says
Oh my goodness I would eat so much of this in one sitting!! haha Looks amazing.
I looove Creme Brulee. That crackly top and the soft custard is pure genius.