Classic Crème Brûlée Recipe — This is an easy crème brûlée that everyone can make, doesn’t require a candy thermometer or stand mixer, and isn’t doctored up with specialty flavorings.
Easy Crème Brûlée Recipe
After five years of blogging and a couple cookbooks, many days I feel like I’ve made every dessert there is. But I recently asked my family, “If you could have any dessert under the sun, what would it be?”
The reply was crème brûlée. I was not expecting that, at all. I was expecting idunno’s and notsure’s.
I said, since when do you like crème brûlée, knowing his outright distaste for cheesecake, and he’s very picky about pies and custardy things. I’ve written off most of those type of recipes since I don’t need a cheesecake or a pie just for me.
He said that ever since he started going out for fancy business lunches and dinners again he’s become a big crème brûlée fan.
So I knew I had to make it, but when I started to research crème brûlée recipes, talk about fussy, picky, tedious and very un-fun recipes. Why is it that the best things can often be the most fussy? Worth it, but you’ve earned it once you finally dig in.
This very do-able and classic crème brûlée is so good, so decadent, creamy, and rich, and it’s a must-make.
Key word here, classic. It was requested I don’t do anything ‘fancy’ or goofy to it, i.e. don’t be a food blogger and try to improve upon perfection by adding flavorings, liquors, zests, etc. Just classic crème brûlée, please.
I mixed and matched so many recipes I saw and came up with something that’s a straightforward recipe everyone can make, it doesn’t require a candy thermometer, stand mixer, and it’s not overly fussy. Baking should be fun.
This crème brûlée recipe serves 4 to 6. I made 6 portions and did so on purpose for portion control and to stretch the recipe, but we ended up eating all 6 portions the first day anyway. Whoops.
As you puncture the firm top layer of crystallized sugar with your spoon, it gives way to the creamiest, smoothest, richest, sweet custardy layer. It’s velvety soft and smooth, and worth every minute of cardio.
My family said this blows away all the fancy restaurant crème brûlée and has asked when I’m making it again.
What’s in Crème Brûlée?
To make the best crème brûlée recipe, you’ll need:
- Heavy cream
- Egg yolks
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Superfine sugar
How to Make Crème Brûlée
This homemade crème brûlée couldn’t be easier to make! First, place 6 small ramekins inside a 9×13-inch baking dish (you’ll fill this later with water to make a water bath).
Next, heat the cream until it just starts to bubble — don’t let it come to a boil! Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and pale in color.
Slowly pour the warm cream over the eggs, whisking constantly the entire time. Stir in the vanilla and salt, then divide the mixture between the ramekins.
Fill the 9×13-inch baking dish with hot water until it almost reaches the top of the ramekins. Then, bake the crème brûlée until they’re set with a slight jiggle to them. Once they come out of the oven, they’ll need to cool on your counter for an hour before being transferred to the fridge.
Can I Prep This in Advance?
Yes! Crème brûlée is a great party dessert because you can make it up to three days in advance, keep it chilled in the fridge, and sprinkle with sugar right before serving and torch them in front of your guests. Super impressive and memorable for them, but easy for you.
Do I Have to Use a Kitchen Torch?
You could try to caramelize the top sugar layer under the broiler, but it’s unreliable and you can easily burn all your precious work in seconds. I recommend a torch.
Tips for Making the Best Crème Brûlée
There are a couple things that will make your life easier when making this recipe. Ramekins and a small kitchen torch. I used these Le Creuset 8-Ounce Round Covered Ramekins or here’s a gift set in a slightly different color. Keep your eyes open for small oven-safe ramekins at places like Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Marshall’s, or TJ Maxx for a couple bucks each. They’re handy to have around and as much as I’d love to collect Le Creuset in every size and color, it’s not exactly practical.
You can also use a larger but shallow baking dish, adjusting baking time as necessary, and although you won’t have individual portions, it’ll work.
Read the recipe over a couple times before beginning, have everything organized (mise en place) before beginning, and you’ll be rewarded with the best crème brûlée that’s ever passed your lips. And the easiest.
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- 1 pint whipping or heavy cream (2 cups)
- 4 egg yolks from large eggs
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt, optional and to taste
- about 3 to 4 cups water, for water bath
- 1 to 2 teaspoons superfine sugar per each ramekin, for caramelizing (granulated may be substituted but superfine melts more smoothly and evenly)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place 6 ramekins in a 9×13 pan or large baking pan that will be used for a water bath. Spray ramekins with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
- Add the cream to a 2-cup glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high power until cream begins to bubble just a bit, but don’t let it come to a full boil; it took 3 1/2 minutes in my micro (or heat cream over medium heat on the stove, about 10 minutes). Remove cream from micro; set aside to cool.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and with clean hands, pick out the yolks and put them in a large bowl. I find picking out the yolks very carefully with my fingers is the easiest way to separate whites/yolks, but separate them as you prefer. Use the whites for another recipe or discard.
- To the large bowl with the yolks, add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and whisk vigorously for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is lighter and paler in color, and has fluffed in volume. Your shoulder should be burning; use an electric mixer if you wish, or burn some calories, save dishes, and whisk by hand; set aside.
- With a spoon, remove any skin that’s formed on the cream. It will be quite warm, but not scalding; it should read 165F max on a thermometer.
- Very slowly pour about 1/4 cup of cream into the eggs, whisking the whole time. This is tempering the eggs (getting them used to the warm cream) so you don’t scramble them.
- Continue pouring the cream into the eggs very slowly, whisking the whole time.
- Add the vanilla, optional salt, and whisk to combine. Some recipes call for straining the mixture through a fine sieve now, but I find there’s no difference so I skip straining.
- Evenly pour mixture into prepared ramekins; set aside.
- Add 2 cups water to 2-cup glass measuring cup and microwave on high power until boiling, about 4 minutes.
- Slowly and carefully pour the hot water into the 9×13 pan. The water creates a water bath so the crème brûlée bakes more evenly. Make sure the water isn’t being poured onto or splashing into the ramekins. Top off with more very hot tap water until the water level in the pan is about as high as the level of crème brûlée inside the cups.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until set with some jiggle. Baking time will vary widely based on pan size, if you’re baking 4 to 6, level of water in water batch, type of ceramic the ramekins are made of, climate and oven variances, and personal preference. Use your judgment and bake until done, noting that crème brûlée will set up more as it cools. If you open the oven and gently move the baking pan and the crème brûlée makes a wave-like motion, more than just slight jiggling, they’re not done. They should not be browned, won’t rise, and if testing with a thermometer it should read 150F to 155F for food safety; however I bake until about 170F because at 155F, there’s still too much jiggle for my liking.
- Remove pan from the oven and very carefully with a hot mitt, remove ramekins from water bath and place them on a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
- Cover them with lids or plastic wrap, and transfer to fridge to chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days in advance.
- Prior to serving, evenly sprinkle each ramekin with 1 to 2 teaspoons superfine sugar. I prefer 2 teaspoons each to achieve an appropriately thick caramelized top layer.
- Using a torch held about 6 inches away from the surface, heat the sugar, making sure to keep the torch moving evenly to prevent burning. When sugar is sufficiently caramelized to your liking, serve immediately.
- Crème brûlée that has not been sugared/torched will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 363Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 244mgSodium: 82mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 5g
More Special Occasion Desserts:
Crack Pie — There’s a reason this pie has the name it has and it definitely lives up to the hype!
Caramelized Banana Upside Down Cake — This upside down cake is super moist thanks to the combination of sour cream, buttermilk, and vegetable oil. It’s so easy to make, and the caramelized banana flavor is impossible to resist!
Banana Cream Pudding Pie with Cream Cheese Crust — You’re going to love this quintessential comfort food dessert. It tastes like you slaved over it but it’s one of the easiest pies ever.
The Best Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache — This truly is the best chocolate cake EVER. It’s topped with a silky smooth chocolate ganache frosting, and it takes just 10 minutes of hands-on prep!
Sugar Cream Pie — This sugar cream pie reminds me a bit of crème brûlée. The filling is custard-like, and when topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon it’s irresistable!
The Best Triple Chocolate Layer Cake — This is the chocolate layer cake to beat out all others. It’s rich, decadent, and everything you want in a triple chocolate cake!