My Easy Creme Brulee works up quickly and is sure to impress. Make it vanilla, or one of my flavored creme brulee options. In particular, the use of creme liqueur is a great way to bring unique flavour to the dessert.
Originally posted July 12, 2013. Updated 2/10/2023
“What is Crème Brûlée?”, you might ask?
Creme brûlée is one of the easiest desserts to be considered an elegant dessert.
Often found on fancy restaurant menus, it’s often seen as high end and pretentious enough, that there is this assumption that it's difficult or finicky to make... but that couldn't be further from the truth!
I mean really, the name means “burnt cream” - it’s a classic French dessert .
The “Brûlée” is the sugar topping. The finished custard is sprinkled generously with sugar, then torched to caramelize it into a golden sugar crust.
The sugar melts, then hardens into a toasty, crunchy topping that is SO satisfying to shatter when eating.
It actually comes together in just minutes, in terms of actual labour... and it's sure to impress!
The best part?
It’s super easy to customize it, using any number of flavor variations - I’ve got a bunch of info on that, a bit further down in this post.
Easy Crème Brûlée
What makes this an easy recipe?
Well, classic crème brûlée recipes often involve steps and equipment that are largely unnecessary. Cooking the creamy vanilla custard in a double boiler, using a fine-mesh sieve or fine mesh strainer, etc.
I wouldn’t blame anyone to find it fussy, when looking at a traditional recipe for the first time.
The thing is... you really don’t need a bunch of what’s called for in those more complicated creme brulee recipes.
My way takes about 5 minutes of work to get the custards in the oven, then a little to add the crust - very minimal effort!
Serve it on its own, or with some fresh berries for an easy dessert.
That creamy texture with the crunch from the burnt sugar layer - possibly featuring whatever unique flavor you choose to add - is sure to make this one of your favorite desserts, too!
A Note on the Photos
I had to redo this post while I was low carbbing, so the photos are actually of my Keto Creme Brulee Recipe.
No WAY were my taste buds going to miss out on a batch of flavoured creme brulee!
Anyway, it’s exactly the same look and techniques, just with the sweetener swapped out!
Wanted to be upfront about that, in case you see the same photos on THAT post, eventually!
Creme Brulee Ingredients
While you can add flavours to customize it (more on how to achieve some of my favorite flavors in a bit), vanilla creme brulee requires only a few simple ingredients:
1 - Egg Yolks: I use more than a lot of classic creme brûlée recipes do, as I like the richness it adds. Feel free to cut back to 6 large egg yolks, if you like. (I’ll generally save the egg whites to make Meringue Cookies or Pavlova!)
2 - Granulated Sugar: Just plain white sugar. You can use superfine sugar if you like, but it’s really not necessary. If you want a bit of extra flavor, you can use raw sugar for the topping.
3 - Heavy Cream: AKA heavy whipping cream.
Equipment to Make Crème Brûlée
While Crème Brûlée is really easy to make, it does require 3 types of equipment to make them:
You want a baking dish - or dishes - large enough to hold your individual ramekins, leaving a little bit of space between each of them, and the sides.
I like using big, shallow ramekin, so I use a bit, flat bottomed roasting pan.
You’ll be adding water around the ramekins, a process called a bain marie. This is a hot water bath that allows for slow, low heat, even cooking of the custards.
Ramekins come in a variety of styles and sizes. For Crème Brûlée, I like to use shallow ramekins, about 5-6 oz.
Shallow ramekins allow for more surface area, which means more caramelized sugar to custard ratio.
The smaller your ramekin, the more servings you’ll get from this recipe. 4-ounce ramekins will yield about 6 servings, while
6-ounce ramekins / 6-ounce custard cups.
Another item you’ll want for this is a small butane kitchen torch.
This mini blow torch is handy not only for caramelizing the surface sugar on your Crème Brûlée, but also adding a bit of toasty colour to other dishes.
Marshmallows, for instance. It may be a bit “extra”, but toasting marshmallows on top of a mug of hot chocolate can be fun!
Flavored Creme Brulee Options
While the classic flavor of vanilla extract creme brulee is always fantastic, the great thing about creme brulee is that you can definitely play around with things.
Here are some options:
Real Vanilla Beans
Feel free to use real beans instead of - or in addition to - your vanilla beans.
Just split a vanilla pod or two, and scrape the vanilla bean paste into the egg mixture.
Eggnog Creme Brulee
To make an eggnog version, simply swap the heavy cream out for and equal amount of your favourite eggnog. Skip the sugar that’s in the custard - the eggnog is sweet enough!
I like to sprinkle the top with a little nutmeg after caramelizing it.
For a subtle molasses taste, use packed brown sugar instead of granulated in your custard.
Maple Creme Brulee
Chocolate Creme Brulee
Add 6-8 oz chopped chocolate of choice (or chips) to the heated heavy cream, stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
Add this chocolate cream to the egg mixture, and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Note: I find that dark chocolate works best for this!
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
For pumpkin crème brûlée, decrease the heavy cream by ⅓ cup.
Add ½ cup of pure pumpkin puree and 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the egg mixture, whisking until well combined.
Note: This version is great with the sugar in the custard swapped out for brown sugar.
Coffee Creme Brulee
You can achieve some great coffee flavour in one of two ways:
1. Simmer ¼ cup or so of coffee beans in the heavy cream. Take it off the heat, allow to sit for 10 minutes, then strain the beans out.
Note: You’ll likely need to top up the heavy cream, as you’ll lose some to the beans.
2. Add some espresso powder to the heavy cream as it simmers. I recommend doing this to taste - how much you add will depend on how strong you want it.
I’ll usually start out with a tablespoon or two, and go from there.
I find this the best way to do coffee creme brulee, as the beans can be a bit of a hassle.
Lemon Creme Brulee
Decrease heavy cream by ¼ cup. Add 2-3 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to the egg mixture.
Add the zest of 2 lemons to the heavy cream, allow it to simmer VERY low for 10 minutes to infuse. Strain this into the egg mixture, discard the lemon zest.
Coconut Creme Brulee
Use canned coconut cream (as in thick coconut milk, NOT the same as “creamed coconut”!) in place of the heavy cream.
Boozy Crème Brûlée
This post was adapted from my This is my basic Boozy Crème Brûlée, in The Spirited Baker.
Like many desserts, this one adapts very well to use liqueur as a flavouring agent - in particular, cream liqueurs.
This works well with *any* cream based liqueur, so go with what you love. My personal favourites are Amarula and Baja Rosa, and Bailey's is always a popular option.
Whatever liqueur you choose, you'll find this to be a very easy, go-to recipe when you want something a little more elegant for dessert.
Anyway, to flavour yours with liqueur, simply swap out ½ cup of the heavy cream with the cream liqueur of your choice.
How to Make Creme Brulee
The full recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post, but here is the pictorial walk through of my simple recipe, with additional tips and information.
Get Things Prepared
Preheat oven to 325ºF (160°C), make sure your oven rack is set to the middle position.
Place ramekins in your baking pan - I’ll usually use a roaster or large cake pan. While you can do this with the filled ramekins, I find it easier to fill the ramekins in the pan, and just not have to move them.
You can add the water now or after the custard, up to you!
Make Your Rich Custard Base
Combine egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl, whisking until the egg yolk mixture becomes thick and pale yellow.
Add the vanilla and approximately ¼ cup of the heavy cream to the egg & sugar mixture, whisking until incorporated and smooth.
Slowly drizzle hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Note: You can ladle it in from the pot, or transfer the custard to a large measuring cup. The pour spout makes for better accuracy and control, IMHO
Bake until custard is set, but wiggles in the middle – about 45-50 minutes for 4 ramekins, or 35-40 minutes if doing 6 smaller custards.
Remove from oven, carefully transfer ramekins to a wire rack. Allow to cool to room temperature, and then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, sprinkle a little bit of sugar (2-3 teaspoons) evenly over each custard, spreading to create a thin layer of sugar.
If your work surface isn’t heat/flame safe, arrange your custards on a baking sheet before proceeding.
Use a small, handheld kitchen torch to melt sugar on the top of each custard, until melted and golden brown.
Place your oven rack to the highest position, and heat your oven broiler.
Place the sugared custards on a roasting pan and broil until the top of the custard is golden brown.
Keep an eye on it, it’s easy to burn when using this method!
More Fancy Recipes
Planning for a special dinner, whether Valentine’s Day, a special date, or a fancy dinner party? Here are a few recipes to consider!
Balsamic Mushroom Baked Brie
Chocolate Dessert Ravioli
Clementine Mousse with Champagne
Creamy Vanilla 6" Cheesecake
Easy Kahlua Panna Cotta
Fancy Tea Sandwiches
How to Make Cream Puffs and Croquembouche
Mushroom Brie Turnovers
Mushroom & Goat Cheese Braid with Balsamic Glaze
Pepper Crusted Tuna with Wasabi Cream Sauce
Phyllo Crab Triangles
Savoury Tomato Shortcake
Shrimp & Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms
Traditional Raspberry Mousse
White Chocolate Almond Amaretto Truffles
Wild Rice Stuffed Chicken Breast with Dijon Chive Cream Sauce
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Flavoured Crème Brûlée Recipe
- 8 Large Egg Yolks
- ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla extract
- 2 cups Heavy Cream
- ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
- Preheat oven to 325ºF (160°C)
- Combine egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl, whisking until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow. Add the vanilla and approximately ¼ cup of the heavy cream, whisking until incorporated and smooth.
- In a small pot, heat remaining heavy cream to a simmer. Remove from heat.
- Slowly drizzle hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
- Pour into 4-6 ramekins or custard cups, and arrange in a large pan.
- Carefully add water to the large pan, till about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake until custard is set, but wiggles in the middle – about 45-50 minutes.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool to room temperature, and then chill for at least 2 hours.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle 2-3 teaspoon sugar evenly over each custard. Use a small, hand held kitchen torch to melt sugar.