This Le Cirque Classic Crème Brûlée recipe was the first I ever made and no other version has ever surpassed it! Martha Stewart featured this Crème Brûlée Recipe on one of her shows nearly 20 years ago. I had never even tasted crème brûlée, but it turned out to be a treasured family dessert!

I used my broiler to brulee the coarse sugar topping that transformed this vanilla custard into an extraordinary after-dinner treat. Cracking a spoon through the hardened sugar crust into the silky smooth custard revealed the two quintessential elements making this Easy Creme Brulee Recipe so famous.

Classic Crème Brûlée in a white ramekin with a raspberry garnish.

Why You Must Make

Also known as Burnt Cream or Trinity Cream, crème brûlée is a rich, creamy custard topped with a thin, crisp layer of caramelized sugar.

  • Since I started making this Classic Crème Brûlée at home, Bill will not order it from a restaurant menu. According to him, they always fall short.
  • The recipe is from New York City’s legendary restaurant, Le Cirque.
  • This is truly the quintessential crème brûlée recipe.
Creme Brulee Ingredients on a sheet pan with labels.

Ingredient Notes

  • Kitchen Staples – Granulated Sugar (regular white sugar)
  • Heavy Cream – 36% butterfat
  • Vanilla Bean – Slit in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds, and add both seeds and pod to the cream
  • Egg Yolks – Eggs separate best when cold. See below for recipes that use only egg whites.
  • Salt – Salt enhances desserts just as it enhances savory recipes. It’s not enough to make the dessert salty, but it can taste flat if you omit it. Use table salt instead of kosher salt so it dissolves more easily.
  • Turbinado Sugar – Also known as sugar in the raw. A coarse, blonde-colored sugar with a delicate molasses flavor. Use a handheld kitchen torch or your broiler to melt the sugar topping on each creme brulee. To use your broiler, keep the door slightly ajar while you’re caramelizing the sugar so you can keep an eye on the process. The goal is to melt the sugar, turn it a golden brown, but not burn it.

How to Make

Expert Tips:

Once you learn how to make creme brulee, it will be a frequent flyer when it comes to dessert. Perfect for company, holidays, or whenever you want to treat your family to a fabulous dessert. Here are some tips for how to make creme brulee.

  • PRO-Tip: When adding the yolks to the hot cream, pour very slowly and whisk constantly. This will minimize having bits of cooked egg in your batter.
  • PRO-Tip: For the smoothest results, pour the batter through a sieve to remove any bits of egg that happen to cook/coagulate when mixed with the hot cream.
  • PRO-Tip: If you don’t pour slowly and whisk constantly, you may get a lot of coagulated egg in your mixture. If that happens, your creme brulee may not have enough egg for it to set properly. So don’t rush this step.
  • Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
  • Purchase sugar in the raw, also known as turbinado sugar, to make the sugar topping.
  • Use a mini torch or broiler to melt and brown the sugar. If you use the broiler, place the ramekins directly under the elements and watch very carefully so they don’t burn. The goal is to melt the sugar so it turns golden brown.
  • PRO-Tip: If adding salt to the mixture sounds odd, it accentuates the flavors and prevents desserts from tasting flat.
Two Classic Crème Brûlée with red handled spoons..

Crème Brûlée Equipment

  • I finally purchased some (all affiliate links) flat oval ramekins, but the round, deeper version works fine, too. You’ll just have to add more baking time to ensure the custard is set. There will be a slight jiggle in the middle but set around the perimeter when they are fully baked.
  • Creme brulee is baked in a bain marie, which is the French term for a water bath. Setting the unbaked custards into a pan of hot water to bake them helps stabilize the baking temperature, making for the creamiest results. The water should come halfway up the sides of your dishes. You do not want any water to slosh into the dishes. I use my roasting pan.
  • You’ll also need a culinary torch or broiler. See below for more details.

Straining the Custard

  • The custard needs to be strained before pouring it into the ramekins. Even if you very carefully and slowly add the hot cream to the eggs while constantly whisking, some small bits of egg can cook. You must strain those out so you have the silkiest, creamy custard.
  • Note: If you have a lot of cooked egg bits, it means you added the eggs too quickly and/or did not whisk constantly while drizzling them into the hot cream. If this happens, there will not be enough egg in your custard to allow them to solidify. You will have to start over. Don’t ask how I know this!
  • PRO-Tip: I like to strain my custard into a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup with a spout. It makes it super easy to pour the mixture into your ramekins.

Caramelizing the Sugar Topping

  • When it comes to caramelizing your sugar topping, you have options there as well. I use turbinado, or sugar in the raw, but you can also use brown sugar or granulated sugar. Some folks add a thin layer of sugar, torch, and then repeat. Generally, I just go for it once.
  • You can also use your broiler, which used to be my preferred method, just watch carefully and remove them when the sugar topping starts bubbling. I use a mini-torch now, but you can also use a larger, welding torch instead of a culinary torch if you’re comfortable using one.

Serving Your Crème Brûlée

  • Make sure to chill your creme brulee before torching so the custard doesn’t totally liquefy from the heat. Not that anyone has ever complained when that’s happened around here!
  • Though this classic creme brulee is lovely served ungarnished, for company, I’ll add a couple of fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries to jazz up the presentation.
  • I’ve also updated this recipe after reading Jenni Field’s post on salting desserts. She’s an accomplished pastry chef and knows her stuff; just a pinch of salt will make a world of difference to the taste of the vanilla bean custard. If you have never made an easy crème brûlée recipe before, consider it for a Valentine’s Day dessert for the one (or ones) you love.
  • You can make the custards ahead of time. I like torching the sugar topping right before serving.
Classic Crème Brûlée with a spoonful removed and set in the foreground.

Recipes to Use Up Extra Egg Whites:

After making this creme brulee recipe, you’ll be left with 7 egg whites. Don’t toss them, but instead save them for one of these recipes featuring leftover egg whites.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Pronounce Crème Brûlée?

As mentioned above this French phrase translates to Burnt Cream. The accent marks may be confusing when trying to figure out how to say the name of this dessert. It’s krehm-broo-LAY.

Can You Make Crème Brûlée Ahead of Time?

Yes, this is what makes creme brulee an excellent recipe for entertaining. PRO-Tip: The custards can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Just cover them with plastic wrap. Sprinkle with sugar and torch before serving.

Can You Broil Your Crème Brûlée?

PRO-Tip: Using a Creme Brulee Torch or Kitchen Torch is the preferred method for melting the sugar on top of your custards. You will have more control over melting the sugar.

But in a pinch, the broiler will work. Place the dishes of Crème Brûlée on a sheet pan and broil about 4 inches from the element. Watch carefully so your sugar does not burn. You may need to line up your ramekins so they’re directly beneath a heat source.

Did New York City’s Le Cirque Restaurant Invent Crème Brûlée?

Versions of crème brûlée can be traced back to 15th century England and a Spanish version dates back to Medieval times. It made a resurgence in the US when Le Cirque featured it on their menu in the 1980s.

What Does Crème Brûlée Taste Like?

The base is a smooth, silky, rich vanilla custard topped with a layer of brittle, caramelized sugar. The contrasting textures are part of what makes this such a memorable, exquisite dessert.

You May Also Like:

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Classic Creme Brulee | a fabulous vanilla custard topped with a thin layer of brittle, caramelized sugar

Classic Crème Brûlée

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Yield 9 servings

A creamy vanilla custard topped with a crisp "burnt" sugar topping


  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, slit in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)


  1. Preheat oven to 300º.
  2. In a saucepan, heat cream, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds, sugar, and salt over medium heat, occasionally stirring, till bubbles form around the perimeter. Do not bring it to a boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk eggs in a large glass measuring cup (or bowl). Temper the yolks by adding a small amount of hot cream to the yolks while whisking. Repeat a few more times, making sure to add the cream mixture very slowly and to keep whisking so the yolks do not cook.
  4. Pour tempered yolks back into the pan and whisk till smooth. Strain the mixture into a large measuring cup (you may reuse the cup utilized for tempering) to remove the vanilla pod, seeds, and any bits of cooked yolk.
  5. Place nine 8-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan. Fill the ramekins to the top with custard. Carefully place the pan in the oven, and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the ramekins. Bake until custard is set and jiggles slightly when shaken, about 50 minutes.
  6. Remove from the water bath and let cool for a half hour or so. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Before serving, sprinkle with turbinado sugar and use a kitchen torch to caramelize. In a pinch, you can also place it under the broiler (about 4 inches from the element) and broil until the sugar is melted. Watch VERY carefully.
  7. Place each on a small plate to serve.
  8. I used shallow ramekins and baked them for about 40 minutes.


Separate your eggs when they're cold as the yolk is less likely to break.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 creme brulee

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 488Total Fat: 42gSaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 285mgSodium: 100mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 0gSugar: 20gProtein: 8g


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