Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard)

Here is a classic Crème Brûlée with a silky, smooth and rich custard topped with a pane of crunchy toffee. This is French chic personified in a dessert – classy but not stuffy, and oh-so-effortless! It takes just 4 simple ingredients: cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. It’s an excellent make-ahead dessert for an elegant dinner party, yet easy enough to whip up for dinner tonight.

And no, you don’t even need a blow torch to make the toffee topping!

Spoon scooping up Creme Brûlée

Crème Brûlée

I will never forget the first time I made Crème Brûlée because I was so astounded how easy it was. I think I just assumed that something that tastes so incredible and frequents the menus of top restaurants would be really hard to make!

I think you too will be so surprised how easy Crème Brûlée is! No fancy gadgets (I’ll get to the toffee topping later :-)) and just 4 simple steps:

  1. Infuse cream with vanilla (10 minute simmer, stand for 1 hour);

  2. Whisk egg yolks & sugar, then cream;

  3. Pour into ramekins, bake then chill; and

  4. Sprinkle with sugar then blast with blow torch or stick it under a stinking hot grill to make the caramel topping.

Wait – that’s it?? You don’t need a recipe! 😂

(PS How to pronounce Crème Brûlée: krem broo lay. You get extra points if you can say it with a French accent. I can only say it with an Aussie accent!)

Overhead photo of Creme Brûlée decorated with raspberries and mint

What goes in Crème Brûlée

Here’s all you need to make Crème Brûlée:

Creme Brûlée ingredients
  • Cream – heavy/thickened or pure cream works just fine here. If you opt for low fat cream, you will miss the rich mouthfeel but the recipe does work;

  • Vanilla bean – While vanilla bean will give the best and purest vanilla flavour, you can use vanilla bean paste instead. The vanilla bean paste still has the little black vanilla bits in it, so it will look the same but the vanilla flavour is not quite as pure. Vanilla extract also work, though once again it’s just not as good as the “real thing”, albeit an excellent economical option. I personally wouldn’t recommend making Crème Brûlée using imitation vanilla essence. It kind of defeats the purpose….

  • Sugar – Some for mixing into the custard, and a bit for sprinkling on the surface to make the paper thin shatteringly crispy topping!

  • Egg yolks – This gives Crème Brûlée the luxurious richness as well as making the custard set. Use leftover egg whites to make this Fluffy Soufflé’s Egg White Omelette!

How to make Crème Brûlée

French chic sophistication… yet so easy to make!

How to make Creme Brûlée
  1. Scrape Vanilla Bean – To scrape the vanilla bean “caviar” out, cut an incision down the length of the vanilla bean. Then use the back of a small knife held perpendicular against the vanilla bean and scrape it along the inside to scrape out the vanilla bean caviar. See demo in the recipe video below;

  2. Infuse cream – Place vanilla “caviar”, used vanilla bean pod and cream in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Then leave to stand for 1 hour so the cream gets infused with the vanilla flavour and cools (so it doesn’t cook the egg). I tend to do this with the lid off because I don’t like condensation dripping into my cream from the lid if you cover it. It’s diluting the cream, I declare, perhaps illogically!😂

    It does mean removing the skin that forms on the surface before mixing into the egg;

  3. Egg mixture – Whisk egg yolks with the sugar;

  4. Add cream – Remove the vanilla bean from the cream (have a giggle when you see what I use to remove it in the recipe video!). Use a slotted spoon or similar to remove any skin from the surface of the cream to ensure our custard is silky smooth;

  5. Make custard – Pour the cream into the egg mixture then whisk until just combined. Don’t whisk more than necessary as this creates air bubbles. Though let’s be real, it’s not the end of the world if you have an air bubble or two in your custard! I’m just being a perfectionist here :-);

  6. Fill ramekins – This recipe makes 500ml / 2 cups of custard, so that’s 125ml / 1/2 cup each for 4 servings. So a small ramekin around 150ml / 2/3 cup is an ideal size – this is what I used.

    Restaurants often serve Crème Brûlée in a flatter, larger dish so there’s more toffee surface area. I applaud them for this clever move – we all love that toffee top – but regretfully I do not have such a dish;

  7. Water bath – Place ramekins in a deep(ish) roasting pan, then fill the pan with boiling water so it comes halfway up the side of the ramekins. Don’t go any higher than this otherwise the ramekins will float around in the water!

  8. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until the custard looks/feels set but still wobbles when you (gently!) shake the ramekin.

How set Crème Brûlée should be

Crème Brûlée is supposed to be a soft custard with a texture like a thick Greek yogurt. You should not be able to cut through it like cake! When you scoop into the ramekin, the custard walls of the custard in the ramekin should barely be holding upright, but shouldn’t run everywhere. And it should melt in your mouth like a rich, velvety cream. It shouldn’t even have the texture of soft jelly!

How to make the crisp toffee topping of Crème Brûlée

A blow torch makes short work of the crisp toffee topping – just sprinkle with sugar then blast with the blow torch for around 6 to 10 seconds until the sugar melts and turns toffee coloured.

However, if you don’t have a blow torch, just melt the sugar under a stinking hot grill / broiler for around 45 seconds – 1 minute. It works just fine, though my two little tips are a) the brûlée should be refrigerated overnight to ensure it is really cold; and b) after the sugar is melted, pop it back in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, up to 1 hour. This is because the grill takes longer than a blow torch so the surface of the custard under the caramel will melt a little bit.

How to make Creme Brûlée
Creme Brûlée in white pots, ready to be served

That moment when you crack through the caramel topping and are greeted with the sight of silky smooth custard…..ugh. Heaven in a ramekin!

Close up of the inside of Creme Brûlée in a pot

What to serve with Crème Brûlée

As for what to serve Crème Brûlée with? So many options! An elegant ending to any dinner, but of course the obvious idea is to round out a French menu with this impressive dessert. Here are some ideas:

More French ideas this way -> French recipe collection.

Bon appetit! – Nagi x

Watch how to make it

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Spoon scooping up Creme Brûlée

Crème Brûlée (French Vanilla Custard)


Tap or hover to scale

Recipe video above. A classic French Crème Brûlée with a silky smooth rich custard and crunchy caramel top. It’s a stunner – and so easy!


  • Vanilla bean – Split vanilla down the middle and scrape the seeds out using a small knife. Place into saucepan with cream and the used vanilla pod.

  • Infuse cream – Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from stove and leave to infuse for 1 hour (you can skip this step if using paste, just let it cool to lukewarm). Remove vanilla pod.

  • Preparation – Preheat oven to 130°C/265°F (120°C fan). Place four 2/3 cup / 150 ml ramekins in a baking pan (high enough so water can come halfway up ramekins).

  • Boil water – Boil a kettle of water.

  • Whisk yolk s& sugar – Whisk yolks and sugar (50g) until just well combined – don’t whisk too much, you don’t want bubbles.

  • Add cream – Pour cream in and gently stir to combine. Divide mixture between ramekins.

  • Water bath – Pour in enough boiling water so it comes halfway up the side of the ramekins. (If you have too much water, ramekins will float around – not good!)

  • Bake – Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the custard is set but there is still a slightly wobble when you GENTLY give the ramekin a little shake.

  • Chill – Remove ramekins from water. Cool then refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight (up to 3 days).

Toffee Topping

  • Blow torch method – Sprinkle 1/2 tsp sugar over the surface of each creme brûlée. Use a blow torch to melt and caramelise the sugar. Serve immediately.

  • Grill / broiler method – Creme brûlée should be refrigerated overnight. Preheat grill to high. Place creme brûlée under grill for 1 minute or until sugar is melted and caramelised. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, up to 1 hour (to reset custard immediately under toffee), then serve.

  • Crème Brûlée Texture – should be like a very thick yogurt, not set so you can cut it like cake or even a soft set jelly. When you scoop it out of the ramekin, the walls should barely hold, but shouldn’t be melting.running. The custard should literally just melt in your mouth.

Recipe Notes:

1. Cream:

  • Australia: This recipe calls for pure cream. Thickened cream also works, but pure cream will give a cleaner, more elegant mouthfeel (in my opinion). Light cream does work but it lacks the richness;
  • US: Use heavy cream. 

2. Vanilla – It’s most authentic to use a vanilla pod but you could use vanilla bean paste. You want those little black bits of vanilla for the real experience!!
3. Egg Whites – Use leftover egg whites to make this Fluffy Soufflé-style Egg White Omelette!
4. Recipe source – Marginally adapted from the Creme Brûlée recipe from Manu Fiedel’s French Kitchen cookbook.
5. Nutrition – Don’t worry about the nutrition. This is worth it. 🙂

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 173gCalories: 599cal (30%)Carbohydrates: 29.3g (10%)Protein: 6g (12%)Fat: 52.6g (81%)Saturated Fat: 31.2g (195%)Cholesterol: 436mg (145%)Sodium: 58mg (3%)Potassium: 118mg (3%)Sugar: 25.3g (28%)Vitamin A: 2150IU (43%)Vitamin C: 0.8mg (1%)Calcium: 110mg (11%)Iron: 0.5mg (3%)

Originally published in September 2016. Updated with brand new photos and long overdue recipe tutorial video! No change to recipe – it’s perfect as is!

Life of Dozer

One day, a pelican will turn around and peck him and he’ll learn his lesson for good!


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