This is the Perfect Vanilla Creme Brulee Recipe: silky, creamy, and luscious with a thin and crispy caramel coating worthy of a fancy restaurant's dessert menu. And although Creme Brulee is often touted as a posh dessert sold, you'd be surprised to learn that it is actually extremely simple! You need just 5 ingredients including salt and vanilla, and 10 minutes of active work.
In recent years, Creme Brulee fusion desserts have become wildly popular on social media, such as Creme Brulee donuts (you should definitely check out mine!), cookies, cheesecake, and even pizza! Everyone always loves the ASMR videos of cracking the crust. But I feel like not enough people are making the actual dessert, and I'm here to change that. So if you've always been curious about Creme Brulee, this is your sign to actually make it.
WHAT IS CREME BRULEE?
Creme Brulee is a popular French dessert which translates to "burnt cream", and proof of how good desserts don't have to be complicated. At the core, it is a velvety smooth custard made from egg yolks, cream, and sugar, subtly infused with vanilla. What makes it different is its signature crispy caramelized sugar topping, achieved by torching or broiling a thin layer of sugar until it forms a delicate crust. The creamy, rich custard contrasts beautifully with the crispy, slightly burnt caramel coating to create a wonderful blend of flavors and textures.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
For this recipe, you need just 5 basic ingredients which you should already have in your pantry (as always, exact quantities are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post):
- Heavy cream - some recipes use a combination of milk and cream but I like to use just cream! You can use heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, whipping cream, double cream or fresh cream
- Egg yolks - I have tried making this dessert with whole eggs to avoid waste, but it just doesn't work as well. So save those egg whites for a meringue, macarons, or an omelette!
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla - this is the primary flavor in Creme Brulee, so I strongly recommend using good quality vanilla! The best option is to use a vanilla bean (cut it in half and scrape the seeds). The next best option is vanilla bean paste instead
To make the perfect Creme Brulee, you will need two things you may not already have at home:
- Creme Brulee ramekins. These are different from regular ramekins as they are shallow and wider, giving a larger surface area for the sugar coating, so I do recommend getting them! These are the exact ones I used from Amazon. If you aren't able to get them, you can use regular ramekins, but the number of ramekins and baking time will vary
- A blowtorch. This is the best way to get the perfect crispy coating on Creme Brulee, and this is the one I used. I know blowtorches are intimidating - I myself have always avoided them until I made this recipe. But I found it quite easy (and actually exciting) to use. Just make sure to read and follow all instructions carefully
HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT VANILLA CREME BRULEE
Now, let's get into the method. First, watch this quick video tutorial:
Here are some important tips to make the perfect creme brulee:
- Make sure the cream isn't boiling all the way or too hot. You just need to bring it to a simmer
- Add the cream to the eggs slowly while whisking so the eggs get tempered and don't scramble
- Whisk gently and don't overmix! You don't want to whisk aggressively as that will add lots of little air bubbles and the texture won't be as creamy. You just need to whisk enough to get a homogenous mixture
- Pass the custard through a fine sieve mesh to remove any little lumps and get the silkiest texture
- Fill your ramekins almost to the top so the sugar can be easily torched. If you end up with some bubbles in your ramekins, you can gently place a paper towel on top to absorb them (this will also waste a little bit of the batter)
- Don't overbake! Creme Brulee should be jiggly in the middle and set around the edges when you take it out of the oven. Baking longer will result in a more eggy texture
- Don't be afraid to torch the sugar properly. It should become a deep golden color, and smell like caramel. It's ok even if it gets slightly burnt!
- Serve within 1-2 hours of torching. The crispy coating will eventually become more moist and chewy as it absorbs moisture from the custard underneath
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DON'T HAVE A BLOWTORCH
If you can't get your hands on a blowtorch, there are three alternate options for you:
- Use the broiler. Sprinkle the sugar on the creme brulee, and place in the top rack of your oven with the broiler on. You will need to watch closely, and potentially turn the ramekin so the sugar gets torched evenly. This is the next best method, but it does take longer than using a blowtorch, which means the custard ends up getting a bit warm
- Use a hot spoon. For this method, sprinkle the sugar on the creme brulee in a thin layer. Then heat the back of a spoon on your stove, directly on the flame, and gently press onto the sugar. The heat from the spoon will melt and caramelize the sugar, but this will take a while and you will have to go back and forth
- Make a caramel instead. This is a bit more involved, but you can also make a wet caramel (see the one I made in my Creme Brulee donuts) and carefully pour onto the creme brulee. Spread into a thin layer by tilting the ramekin in different directions. This method works best when the creme brulees are very cold but the caramel is hot, and the thinner the caramel layer, the better!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Absolutely! Creme Brulee is an excellent make-ahead dessert. You can bake the custard a day or two in advance and refrigerate it, but it’s best to caramelize the sugar topping just before serving to maintain its crisp texture.
Absolutely! Creme Brulee is versatile. You can infuse different flavors into the custard base by steeping ingredients like lavender, citrus zest, spices, teas or coffee in the cream before making the custard.
This can happen due to the eggs cooking, or even due to the texture of the cream itself. Don't worry, just strain the custard and it should be good to go!
This is most likely due to underbaking. Creme Brulee is perfectly baked when it is set and firm around the edges but still has a wobble / jiggle in the middle when shaken. Additionally, it is important to chill thoroughly, ideally overnight, before diving in.
This is a sign of overbaking. Make sure you stop baking when the Creme Brulee is set on the edges but still wobbly in the middle.
While granulated sugar is commonly used, you can also experiment with brown sugar, demerara sugar, or even powdered sugar. Each sugar type will bring a slightly different flavor and texture to the caramelized crust.
Store the baked custards in their ramekins in the fridge for 4-5 days, well covered. After torching the sugar, you should consume the Creme Brulee within a few hours (keep refrigerated).
If you like this recipe, also check these out:
Note: This post contains affiliate links.