The Very Best Creme Brûlée Recipe
Creamy and smooth, this French classic dessert is made with the simplest of ingredients. This Vanilla Creme Brûlée recipe is easy to make with cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla….and the burnt sugar topping is so fun to make. This is the dessert you’ll want to celebrate all of life’s little moments.
Originally published February 2018 and updated in October 2019.
Easy Creme Brûlée
There’s something so satisfying about taking the first crack at the top of Creme Brûlée. It’s a little therapeutic….like any bit of pent up aggression can be spent with one little whack of the spoon. I may be exaggerating a little bit but don’t test me if we’re ever out to dinner together and you try to take the first crack.
I’ll smack that spoon out of your hand so fast you won’t know what hit it. 🙂 Just kidding, kinda. But….I do LOVE my creme brûlée. So much that I tried to make it for my husband when we were dating years ago…and I’m pretty sure I keep telling the same story over and over again but long story short….I didn’t bake it long enough.
And I didn’t make it in advance so it never really had time to set up. So….basically, we were eating melted vanilla ice cream for dessert which isn’t such a bad thing. But the brûlée part of the dessert never came to be because the sugar just kept sinking to the bottom. There was nothing to brûlée, really.
So….many years later I finally decided to make the basic French classic once again. And I learned a few things….again so you can make it like a pro without making the same mistakes I made way back then….and even just last week.
The Very Best Vanilla Creme Brûlée recipe is just that….the very best. And I say that because it’s creamy and light, sweet but not overly so, simple to prepare and, dare I say, fun to make. It’s also the most impressive dessert to serve for every occasion because it just seems so fancy….when it’s really not at all. Just a basic baked custard with a burnt sugar top. So simple….but so elegant.
What is Creme Brûlée
Creme Brûlée is a dessert made up of a rich custard base topped with a crunchy shell of burnt sugar. Also known as Burnt Creme or Trinity Cream, classic creme Brûlée is normally served chilled and is warmed slightly by the creme Brûlée torch that is used to caramelize the sugar topping.
The most common recipe is Vanilla Creme Brûlée which we’re making here today. It’s super easy to make and a fantastic make ahead dessert for holidays or special occasions….even if the special day is you survived a Monday.
Ingredients You Will Need
What I love about this easy Creme Brûlée recipe is that the ingredients are rather simple and you probably already have them in your kitchen.
Here’s what you need:
- Heavy Cream – As tempting as it may be to try and lighten things up a bit with something like milk or half and half, resist the urge. In order to have the creamiest, smoothest custard base possible heavy cream is the way to go. Heavy cream helps your custard become velvety and rich.
- Vanilla – Vanilla beans are a bit spendy these days but it’s my preferred way to infuse flavor into your creme Brûlée. If you can’t find vanilla beans or are trying to keep costs down you can use a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. But since this is a special occasion dessert, you may want to try to seek out the beans.
- Sugar – For the custard base you can use regular granulated sugar but for the topping, try to find Caster Sugar or superfine sugar as it melts a little smoother and much more quickly than granulated sugar. If you can’t find superfine sugar, you can use granulated sugar but your crust may be a little more granular.
- Eggs – Room temperature eggs will work best here and to be sure your measurements are accurate use large eggs for this recipe. You will only be using the yolks for this recipe so save the whites for your favorite egg muffins or to make a fluffy meringue. If it’s around the holidays….make this Royal Icing! It’s amazing.
That’s it….was I right, do you have everything you need to make it? If so, let’s get started!
How To Make It
Classic Creme Brûlée can seem intimidating to make but it’s really simple and quick.
Here’s how to make it:
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- In a saucepan, whisk together the cream, vanilla and 1/4 cup of the sugar.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer then remove from the heat and cool.
- Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla beans and stir into the cream.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and frothy.
- While whisking, ladle 1/4 cup of the cream mixture into the eggs until combined.
- Slowly add another 1/4 cup of the cream to the egg mixture to combine.
- Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the cream until combined.
- Arrange 6 shallow 6 ounce ramekins on a baking sheet or roasting pan.
- Divide the cream mixture evenly among the ramekins and place on the baking sheet.
- Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until set.
- Cool to room temperature then refrigerate.
- Sprinkle the custard with the sugar and melt with a kitchen torch until caramelized.
- Top with fruit and serve.
I made a Pumpkin Spice Creme Brûlée a couple years ago which I love just as much….it’s so great for Thanksgiving and Christmas!
Tips for Making Creme Brûlée
- Plan ahead….the Very Best Creme Brûlée recipe is best if made in advance. At least a day is optimal. This gives the custard time to chill and set up in the fridge.
- Ramekins….Be mindful of the size of your custard cups. I used 6 6-ounce ramekins with a baking time of approximately 50 minutes until they seemed set up. If you go bigger they will take longer to cook. So, if your custard is about 1 inch deep….baking time will be approximately 30 minutes…..2 inches deep and you’re looking at about approximately 50-60 minutes of baking time. Low and slow is the only way to go. The shallower your dishes, the better.
- Sugar…Don’t go too heavy handed when sprinkling the top with sugar for the brûlée step. And be sure to coat evenly for best results. You don’t want to leave the torch in one spot too long because it will begin to cook the custard beneath the sugar crust…and that’s no good.
- Bain Marie…aka the water bath for your creme brulee. Don’t skip this step because it helps ensure your custard cooks gently without any hot spots that could scramble the eggs. AND be careful not to get any water in the custard mixture because it will cause your custard not to set up at all.
- Temper the Eggs….When adding the milk mixture to the eggs, be sure to do it slowly and whisking constantly so you don’t scramble the eggs. Pouring the hot milk into the eggs too quickly will result in very lumpy (and very egg-y tasting) creme Brûlée.
Ok, so you got the main points to get you started. One last thing…I used a kitchen torch because I think they’re really cool and a ton of fun. (I shared some of the fun on my Instagram stories!)If you don’t have a kitchen torch, that’s totally fine.
You can finish off your Vanilla Creme Brûlée using your oven’s broiler with similar results. It’s a little more touchy and you’ll have to keep your eye on it every second so it doesn’t burn.
But if you can swing a kitchen torch get one because they’re great for all kinds of things…..like toasting marshmallows in the middle of winter. And because playing with fire when you’re a grown up is kinda really fun. 🙂
If you’re feeling really adventurous and maybe have some leftover Vanilla Creme Brûlée sitting around after your celebration, you should totally make these easy Creme Brûlée Chocolate Eggs (Easter is coming!)
And if you’re looking for a truly decadent vanilla dessert that’s more ready when you are, you should totally stock your freezer with this homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s crazy insanely addicting. Rich, creamy and perfect….just like the Very Best Creme Brûlée recipe.
More Easy Dessert Recipes
- The BEST New York Cheesecake Recipe
- Rich Chocolate Pot de Creme
- Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries
- Super Rich Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe
- The Very Best Vanilla Pudding Recipe
Get the Recipe: The Very Best Vanilla Creme Brûlée Recipe
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 10 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar, granulated sugar can be used here but may increase cooking time
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- In a large saucepan, whisk together the cream, vanilla and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat (cream will begin to steam) then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
- Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla beans and stir into the cream. Rinse the empty beans and reserve for another use.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining granulated sugar until pale and frothy. While whisking, ladle 1/4 cup of the cream mixture into the eggs until combined. Slowly add another 1/4 cup of the cream to the egg mixture to combine. (This step tempers the eggs and keeps them from scrambling when you mix them into the cream.)
- Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the cream mixture until thoroughly combined.
- Arrange 6 6-ounce ramekins on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Divide the cream mixture evenly among the ramekins and place the baking sheet on the oven rack.
- Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins (BE SURE NOT to splash any water into the ramekins….POUR SLOWLY.)
- Bake the custards for 50 minutes or until just set. (They will still be a little jiggly in the center…like a cheesecake)
- Cool the custards to room temperature then refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
- Before serving, sprinkle the custard with the superfine sugar and melt the sugar with a kitchen torch until caramelized. Alternatively, you can melt the sugar by placing the custard under the broiler until caramelized.
- Top with fruit, if desired. Serve immediately.