Easy Crème Brûlée

Today I’m showing you how to make Easy Crème Brûlée! This classic dessert seems fancy, but is actually very simple, with only a few ingredients needed. Be prepared to wow your friends and family with this “burned cream” dessert that’s silky custard with a crunchy caramelized sugar topping!

If you love classic desserts, make sure to try my absolutely perfect Cheesecake Recipe too! It’s foolproof!

Creme Brûlée in a ramekin with the sugar broken

Crème Brûlée Is Easier Than You Think!

There are some desserts that just seem fancy, or seem difficult to make. These are generally the treats that you wait to order when you’re out to dinner or for special occasions. But today we’re going to break down Creme Brûlée from start to finish and I am going to show you just how easy it is to make!

Yes, there are few steps, but they are all incredibly simple. My teenagers actually make this recipe on their own with no help from me.

What Is Crème Brûlée?

Let’s start at the beginning and talk about what Crème Brûlée actually is. Creme Brûlée is a rich, creamy custard made from heavy cream, vanilla, granulated sugar, and egg yolks. Yep, that’s it, only 4 simple ingredients!

The custard is baked in the water bath, chilled, and then topped with more granulated sugar that you “burn” using a kitchen torch so it melts and becomes crunchy. You can serve it with fresh fruit as a garnish, maybe a mint leaf if you’re feeling extra fancy, or as my husband likes it with whipped cream.

Are Crème Brûlée and Flan the Same?

Crème Brûlée and Flan are very similar, but there are a few differences to note. It isn’t unusual to find someone who likes Creme Brûlée but doesn’t enjoy flan and vice versa. here are the main differences:

  • Flan is made with sweetened condensed and evaporated milk instead of heavy cream. I’ve even seen flan recipes that use cream cheese as well. The are lots of variations out there!
  • The ramekin or dish you bake flan in is coated with a caramel sauce before adding the custard mixture, giving it a softer coating as oppose to the crunchy sugar topping on crème brûlée.
  • Flipping flan out of the ramekin in which is was baked is a popular way to serve it, while crème brûlée is served in the individual dish in which it was baked.

Is Creme Brûlée custard?

Yes! It is a baked custard topped with a crunchy, caramelized or “burnt” sugar topping! The topping happens to be my favorite part!

using a kitchen torch to brûlée the sugar, melting it and caramelizing so it forms a crispy sugar top

Ingredients:

  • Heavy Cream
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Egg Yolks
  • Vanilla Extract (or a vanilla bean too if you’re feeling fancy)

Tools:

I’m including links to the exact tools I use in case you’re interested. Note – these are affiliate links

What Size Ramekins Do You Need?

My recipe makes 8 servings. I use 6 ounce ramekins, which is a fairly standard size. You can absolutely make this recipe with different sized ramekins, just note the bake time will vary depending on the size and depth of your ramekin! Even if you use a 6- ounce ramekin that is very shallow in depth, they will probably take a little less time to bake than a deep ramekin.

How To Make Crème Brûlée:

The steps are easy, and pretty foolproof in my experience. I was so nervous the first time making crème brûlée, and was shocked that it turned out well. I have played around slightly with the recipe over the years and believe I have settled on the easiest, most delicious version out there, which s what I am sharing today.

  1. To make the custard: Heat your heavy cream in a saucepan until it just barely comes to a boil. Stir it consistently, so the cream doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. If you are using a vanilla bean, scrape the beans out of the pod into the cream, and then place the entire pod into the hot cream. This will further infuse the cream with vanilla. I like this method of heating and cooling the cream best, because I find it to be the easiest. The cream will heat up, infuse with vanilla and then cool perfectly.
  2. While the cream is cooling, whisk your egg yolks, and granulated sugar in a mixing bowl. You want to whisk them very well until they are pale in color. The mixture won’t thicken, it will just become very light yellow. After 10 minutes, the cream will be cooled enough to temper the eggs. Slowly whisk the warm cream into the egg mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time. Add ing it slowly like this prevents your eggs from scrambling, so this step is important!
  3. Place your ramekins into a large baking dish with sides (like a large lasagna pan or 1/2 sheet cake pan). Then fill your 6 -ounce ramekins with the mixture about half an inch from the top. The custard won’t really expand while baking, so your pots can be filled close to the top.
  4. Create a water bath: Heat about 1 1/2 – 2 quarts of water until very hot and pour the water into the baking dish until the water is about half-way up each ramekin.
  5. Bake at 325°F for 35 – 45 minutes, until the tops are set but the custard still “jiggles” slightly when moved. To be sure about doneness you can also use an instant read thermometer. The custard will be done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F – 170°F. You don’t want the tops to brown.
  6. Using an oven mitt or tongs, remove the ramekins from the hot water and allow to cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then cover them loosely with plastic wrap (as to not create moisture on top of the custard) and transfer them into the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days. See the note I made about torching the sugar if using a broiler below.
  7. When you’re ready to enjoy your crème brûlée, divide the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar evenly on top of the custards. Using a kitchen torch go over the sugar lightly until it bubbles and then browns. Again see notes below if you’re not using a torch.
  8. Allow the sugar to cool for 5 minutes before serving to firm up and become crunchy. The sugar will soften if placed back in the refrigerator, so it’s best to do this step right before serving.

How Do You Know When the Crème Brûlée Is Done?

This is the part of the recipe that can be the trickiest. When is it done?! There are so many factors that come into baking…your oven temperature, does your oven heat evenly?, the depth of your ramekins… So please note that the bake time on this can vary, as it can with every baked recipe.

But after making this recipe many times, here’s what to look for to ensure they are baked:

  • The edges will be set, but the center will be “wobbly” or “jiggly”. It won’t be soupy, it will just move a little like jello when you shake the pan.
  • If you notice the centers look wet or liquidy, they aren’t done.
  • If they are browning on top they could be over-done. This could be happening for a few reasons: too long in the oven, the pan is too close to the top heating element, or your oven doesn’t heat evenly. If you notice the tops are browning, but the centers aren’t done, tent them loosely with aluminum foil. I have never encountered this problem, but loosely covering the pan with foil will stop any browning.
  • They might form little bubbles on top. This is totally fine and actually a pretty easy way to know they are done. I know this isn’t ideal, but it’s fine and they will be covered with crunchy sugar soon enough!

Why Use A Water Bath?

A water bath ensures even baking. The hot water surrounds the ramekins, so the bottoms and sides cook just as evenly as the top. Plus, the steam the water creates in the oven prevents cracking on top. Don’t skip this step!

Topping custard with granulated sugar and torching it melting the sugar to form the crispy sugar top

What Is the Topping On Crème Brûlée?

That crunchy hard sugar topping on crème brûlée is what sets it apart! All it is is granulated sugar sprinkles on top and melted using a kitchen torch. Once it’s melted continue to cook it until it’s golden brown!

How To Caramelize the Sugar On Crème Brûlée?

This step is super simple if you have a kitchen torch. Sprinkle granulated sugar all over the top of your chilled custards and torch it! Don’t be skimpy on the sugar either. You might think you’re adding too much, but the thicker the loose sugar layer, the thicker that crunchy topping will be!

When Should You Melt the Sugar?

You will need to allow your custards to be completely chilled before you burn your sugar. AND it’s best to do this step right before serving. Once the sugar is melted and golden, allow it to cool completely and become hard…it only takes about 5 minutes.

If you place the crunchy sugar coated custards back in the refrigerator for any length of time, the sugar softens up. So make sure to do this a few minutes before you serve them for the crunchiest topping!

Do You Have To Have A Kitchen Torch To Make Crème Brûlée?

No you absolutely don’t, but it does make it easier! You can melt and caramelize your sugar under the broiler in your oven if you need to. The only issue I have with this, is you need to watch them carefully and they don’t always get as evenly toasted on top as they do with the torch. BUT with that said, if you don’t want to invest in a torch, this will absolutely work! Here are some tips:

  • Make sure your custards are VERY cold before broiling. This method heats them up more than a torch. An overnight chill is best. You can even place them all in a large pan and surround them with ice while they’re under the broiler. This is an extra step to ensure your custard doesn’t get too warm!
  • Place your ramekins 2-3 inches under the broiler
  • Rotate your pan during the broiling to ensure even cooking.
  • Watch you pan carefully! All home ovens broil a little different!
  • Broiling could take anywhere between 3-10 minutes depending on your oven!

You could even use a multi-purpose lighter with a long neck in a pinch to melt and burn your sugar. This is my least favorite method, but it will work!

A ramekin of Creme Brûlée topped with blueberries

Do You Serve Crème Brûlée Warm Or Cold?

Typically crème brûlée is served chilled, although the top might be slightly warm due to burning the sugar! The sugar coating won’t harden up if the custard is warm.

How To Store:

Store these in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve, I recommend up to 3 days! Like I stated above, wait to torch the sugar on top until a few minutes before serving, so you get the crunchiest sugar topping.

How Far In Advance Can You Make Crème Brûlée?

This is a great dessert to make when entertaining or for the holidays because it’s very elegant, but can (and should) be made in advance! Up to 3 days before enjoying is best!

Can You Freeze These?

YES! If you would like to freeze these, cool them as stated in the recipe, chill them for at least one hour, then cover tightly and freeze for up to 30 days!

Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before torching and serving!

Vanilla custard with caramelized sugar on top broken in a dish with a spoon
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Easy Crème Brûlée

  • Author: Shelly
  • Prep Time Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time Total Time: 75 minutes + chill time
  • Yield Yield: serves 8 1x
  • Category Category: Custard
  • Method Method: Oven
  • Cuisine Cuisine: Dessert

Description:

Easy Crème Brûlée is a classic dessert recipe that seems fancy, but is actually very simple, with only a few ingredients needed.


Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (1 quart) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • hot water for water bath

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In a medium saucepan heat the heavy cream over medium heat until it just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat, add in the vanilla extract, cover the pot and and allow to cool for 10 minutes. (If using vanilla bean scrape the seeds into the cream and add in the seed pod to infuse more flavor into the cream).
  3. In a large bowl whisk together 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the egg yolks until pale in color and thoroughly mixed. Whisk in the warm heavy cream into the egg mixture slowly, adding about 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly as to not scramble the eggs.
  4. Place 8 (6- ounce) ramekins into a large baking pan. Place the ramekins evenly into the baking pan and fill each ramekin equally with the cream mixture, filling about 1/2- inch from the top.
  5. Heat 1 1/2 – 2 quarts of water until very hot. Pour the hot water into the baking dish until the water is about half-way up each ramekin, creating a water bath.
  6. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until the tops are set but the custard still “jiggles” slightly when moved. To be sure about doneness you can also use an instant read thermometer. The custard will be done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F – 170°F. You don’t want the tops to brown.
  7. Using an oven mitt or tongs, remove the ramekins from the hot water and allow to cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover the ramekins loosely with plastic wrap and transfer the custards into the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.
  8. When ready to serve divide the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar evenly on top of the custards. Using a kitchen torch go over the sugar lightly until it bubbles and then browns. *Alternately you can do this under an oven broiler if you don’t own a kitchen torch. Broil the sugar anywhere from 3-10 minutes, watching carefully as not to burn the sugar. Home oven broilers can vary greatly.
  9. Allow the sugar to cool for 5 minutes before serving to firm up and become crunchy. The sugar will soften if placed back in the refrigerator, so it’s best to do this step right before serving.

Notes:

If you are using wide and shallow ramekins, as opposed to the deeper ones pictures here, the bake time will be slightly less. Start checking them after 30 minutes to ensure they don’t over-bake. Also, you might need a little more granulated sugar to top the custards before caramelizing, as there is more surface area to cover.

As stated, the caramelized sugar won’t stay as crunchy, and will soften if refrigerated after torching, so save this step until you’re ready to serve.

If using the broiler to burn the sugar I like to create an ice bath to place the ramekins in before going under the broiler to keep the custard as cold as possible.

Store airtight in the refrigerator for up t 3 days before torching and serving. 

To Freeze:  Cool them as stated in the recipe, chill them for at least one hour, then cover tightly and freeze for up to 30 days. Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before torching and serving!

Keywords:: cookies and cups, crème brûlée, custard, dessert recipe

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Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

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3 Comments
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Dianna
March 23, 2021 2:10 pm

Can you do a chocolate flavor???

Josh
March 22, 2021 1:38 pm

If you don’t have a kitchen torch AND you want to make sure your caramelized tops are even and not burned in spots, there’s a technique that involves a couple more steps, but will guarantee you even caramelization if you use a broiler. You basically melt some granulated sugar and a little water, and boil it until it starts to turn amber. Pour out the amber caramel on wax paper or parchment. When it’s solid, break it into pieces and put it in a heavy-duty plastic bag (the bags that cereal is packed in inside boxes is also great for… Read more »

Shelly Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

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