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French Crème Brûlée Recipe

French Crème Brûlée Recipe

French Crème Brûlée 

This easy recipe is for a delicious French crème brûlée dessert. Crème brûlée is a traditional French dessert consisting of a delicious rich vanilla flavoured custard with a brittle caramelized sugar topping.

There appears to be some discussion as to the origins of crème brûlée, with the French, British, and Spanish all claiming some role in its invention.

But let’s face it, it is so good, like a French Chocolate Mousse, it has to be French! And why else would it be called ‘crème brûlée’, one wonders, meaning ‘burnt cream’ in French?

crème brûlée custard
Crème Brûlée custard after cooling in fridge

Having said that it is also known as Trinity Cream (Trinity College Cambridge) and Crema Catalana, so who really knows?

Although I have never actually knowingly tried a Trinity Cream I assume it is similar to this recipe.

But recently I was super surprised when I ordered a Crème Catalana in a good restaurant in Portugal. It looked the same as a Crème Brûlée, but the cream was actually iced, like ice cream. It was very tasty, but I was just not expecting it to be like that. 

So you may find this dessert with several varieties, with flavoured creme brulee, like passion fruit, lemon or caramel for example – and they are all good. But this original recipe, with a vanilla-flavoured custard, is just the true classic.

crème brûlée before torching
Before caramelising the sugar

Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is made unique by the layer of hard brittle caramelized sugar that coats it. Indeed it is one of Amélie’s small pleasures (from the wonderful French film Amélie, from 2001) – ‘to break the top of the crème brûlée with the tip of your teaspoon’.

creme brulee

While the custard is relatively easy to make, the art is in the creation of the sugary top. It is possible to create this under a grill, but you have to keep a good eye on it to stop it burning. Finishing under the grill may also heat up your custard too much, which you do not want to do.

The best way to caramelize the sugar, and the most common, is to use a kitchen blow torch. These butane-fueled items are relatively cheap to buy and have the advantage of concentrating the heat where you need it.

A kitchen blow torch is also a great present for someone who does not have one already in their kitchen. (I had to buy my own!!)

caramelising sugar

Torching Creme Brulee

I find the best way to melt the sugar is to move around in circles, using a butane kitchen torch on fairly high heat, but not too close to the sugar.

Then the sugar starts to melt in droplets that slowly get bigger and melt into the droplets next to them, forming a golden melted layer as you can see in the photos below.

caramelising sugar
melting sugar

The layer solidifies quite quickly after you remove the heat, forming a glass-like surface.

torching creme brulee

Be careful not to get too close to the sugar when you are torching creme brulee or it may actually catch fire itself and burn.

I use normal granulated white sugar to make this topping, although you can also use castor sugar or even demerara sugar if you prefer. I find the white sugar melts well.

crème brûlée
French Crème Brûlée

You should make sure you completely cover the custard with the sugar, so as to not burn the custard when you are torching it.

You will find that the top layer of custard is slightly warmed by the process, but this improves the effect, of having the delicious cold custard below.

caramel brulee

The thinner you make the sugar layer on top, the better, as the thinner the caramelized topping will be. If you make it too thick, it may become too hard and difficult to break. It could also become a hazard for your teeth!

Remember, breaking the surface is one of life’s small pleasures!

I hope you enjoy this simple recipe. If you do make it, please let me know how you got on in the comments section below!

How to make French Crème Brûlée

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creme brulee

French Crème Brûlée Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

This simple recipe shows you how to make a traditional French crème brûlée. The perfect dessert to make upfront and impress your friends around the dinner table.


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml double cream (heavy cream)


  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  2. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. (Keep the whites to make some meringue for some Eton mess).
  3. Whisk the egg yolks together in a bowl with the caster sugar and the vanilla essence until it is light and pale in colour.
  4. Then heat the cream in a saucepan, stirring on a low heat, until it is just beginning to produce some bubbles at the edge. Do not let it boil, but remove from the heat.
  5. Then slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture, bit by bit, whisking as you do so.
  6. Then sieve the liquid into a jug. There will be a layer of small bubbles on the top - remove this with a lapel and discard.
  7. Then pour the remaining liquid into the ramekins. The above quantities are enough for 3 desserts.
  8. Then place the ramekins on a baking tray with high sides and fill the tray with about 1/2 inch of hot water to make a water bath. Cover the ramekins with some baking parchment and put the tray in the oven for about 30 minutes.
  9. After 30 minutes the liquid should have started to set and should be a little bit wobbly in the middle. Time to remove from the oven.
  10. Cover the ramekins individually and allow to cool in the fridge for at least an hour.
  11. When ready to serve, cover the custard with a thin layer of sugar, and caramelize it with a cooking torch, as described in the body of the post. Be careful not to burn the sugar.
  12. Serve up while the sugar is still warm, but make sure it has hardened before serving.


You can serve optionally with some fresh berries like raspberries or blueberries.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 445Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 279mgSodium: 31mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 0gSugar: 29gProtein: 5g

This nutrition information was automatically calculated by Nutritionix, but may not be 100% accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

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Use the egg whites to make some meringue – read how in this recipe for Eton Mess:
Eton Mess

Some other desserts that may be of interest:

Cinnamon Bread French Toast
French Chocolate Mousse Recipe
Cinnamon Rice Pudding
Fresh Fruit Cocktail Salad
Apple and Blackberry Crumble
Apple and Cherry Pie
Mini Apple Strudels

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