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Classic Creme Brulee

Classic Crème Brûlée

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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 Classic Crème Brûlée recipe one of her shows nearly 20 years ago. I had never even tasted crème brûlée, but knowing Bill was a fan of custard desserts, I gave it a go.

I used my broiler to brulee the coarse sugar topping which 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 which made this dessert so famous.

Classic Crème Brûlée in a white ramekin with a raspberry garnish

Le Cirque’s Legendary Classic Crème Brûlée Recipe

Since I started making this Classic Crème Brûlée at home, Bill will not order them from a restaurant menu. According to him, they always fall short. This is truly the quintessential crème brûlée recipe.

Two Classic Crème Brûlée with red handled spoons

Tips for Making the Perfect Classic Crème Brûlée

Once you make this recipe, 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 making the perfect creme brulee.

Creme Brulee Equipment

  • I finally purchased some 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 most silky, 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, torch and then repeat. Generally, I just go for it once.
  • You can also use your broiler, just watch carefully and remove when the sugar topping starts bubbling. I use a mini-torch, but you can also use a larger, welding torch if you’re comfortable using one.

Serving Your Creme Brulee

  • Make sure to chill your creme brulees 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 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 taste of the vanilla bean custard. If you have never made classsic crème brûlée 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

More Crème Brûlée Inspired Recipes You’ll Love:

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

Classic Crème Brûlée

A creamy vanilla custard topped with a crisp “burnt” sugar topping

  • Author: Liz Berg
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 50 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 9 servings
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, slit in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300º.
  2. In a saucepan, heat cream, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds, sugar, and salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till bubbles form around perimeter. Do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk eggs in large glass measuring cup (or bowl). Temper 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 yolks do not cook. Pour tempered yolks back into pan and whisk till smooth. Strain the mixture into large measuring cup (you may reuse the cup utilized for tempering) to remove vanilla pod, seeds and any bits of cooked yolk.
  4. Place nine 8 ounce ramekins in roasting pan. Fill the ramekins to the top with custard. Carefully place pan in the oven, and pour enough hot water in roasting pan to come halfway up ramekins. Bake until custard is set and jiggles slightly when shaken, about 50 minutes.
  5. Remove from water bath and let cool a half hour or so. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Before serving, sprinkle with turbinado sugar and broil (approximately 4 inches from element) till sugar caramelizes….watch carefully as this takes less than a minute. You may also use a kitchen torch to caramelize. Place on small plate to serve.
  6. I used shallow ramekins and baked for about 40 minutes.

 

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38 comments on “Classic Crème Brûlée”

  1. That golden top is perfection, this looks like a classic for a reason!

  2. Very pretty and perfect for V-Day!
    PS-I made your fudge cake, totally amazing! Thanks:@)

  3. It’s certainly one of my fave desserts, Liz!

  4. Oh là là ! Crème brulé ! It’s sounds like heaven ! It’s Fred’s favourite dessert ! I’ve never made because I don’t have the broiler ! When I saw your crème brulée I think is time to make it !

  5. Oh la la Crème brulée ! It’s Fred’s favourite dessert ! I don’t have the bruleur to made them but when I see yours I think to myself it’s time to made them ! Looks great !

  6. It’s one my favorite desserts, too and cracking the top is the best part.

  7. Love creme brulee and your post reminds me that I haven’t made it in forever. I must remedy that immediately. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  8. I need to make this at home. It is one of the few desserts my husband and I can both agree on. Plus I do so want a little torch.

  9. Love love love creme brulee and can’t believe I’ve never made it. Think I will have to try this recipe!

  10. Your creme brûlée looks gorgeous, and that’s not an easy thing to do. High praise from Bill!

  11. Love a classic creme brulee. I have never made one before though. I love how simply elegant this is. No fuss, no special ingredients, perfect to make whenever.

    xoxo

  12. This looks absolutely perfect! I love that your husband will no longer order them out anymore 🙂

  13. Although I sm not much of a dessert person, this is by far my favourite dessert. You’ve inspired me to make them for dessert for my nephew and his GF on Saturday. I have the low bowls too which works so well. My Canadian Food Network chef suggests to dry the brown sugar overnight spread out in a shallow pan, I find it brûlées very quickly.

  14. Lizzy,
    This is such an elegant dessert. Love the new ramekins too.
    Annamaria
    PS: I got your weekly e-mail on Saturday.

  15. Your creme brulee are simply gorgeous! I need to invest in a little torch. I tried with the broiler, but wasn’t happy with the result. I love that delicate little crunch with the silky custard behind it. You’ve got me wanting one now! 🙂

  16. I can use my broiler instead of a kitchen torch to caramelize?! Why didn’t I think of that . . that is seriously why I have never attempted creme brulee! Because I don’t own a kitchen torch (even though I want one!) 🙂 Liz, this is gorgeous!!!

  17. Creme brulee is my favorite and I love that you made these in the oval ramekins. They look perfectly golden and gorgeous!

  18. Ah, Liz, perfection as always! I’ve missed reading about your food. Glad to be back!

  19. I have yet to make this yummy dessert love this!

  20. SUCH a perfect and gorgeous creme brulee! i registered for the oval ramekins and a small torch and I can’t wait!

  21. Oooooh Liz, how lovely. This is a dessert I’ve tasted often, but only made once. Bought myself a culinary blow torch a while back (from Aldi!), but have yet to use it. Love your recipe. xo

  22. This looks so delicious – I had no idea it was so easy……..I’m going to have to try it!

  23. This creme brûlée looks delicious, I enjoy the crack when you first spoon 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  24. I’ve had creme brulee on my mind for a while now. I take this as a sign that I should make soon!

  25. I’ll have to make your Crème Brûlée ASAP! I love it so much! Nettie

  26. Dear Lizzy, Your creme brulee looks beautiful and elegant! I’m going to take Bill’s word for it…I know my family would love them. xoxo, Catherine

  27. one of my favorites and someday I will be making this!

  28. You’re right the pinch of salt is totally brilliant! Gah I love this dessert like woah! Creme Brûlée FTW!

  29. Thanks for demystifying creme brulee! 😀 This is so delicious

  30. Creme Brûlée is our all time favorite dessert. That crackle when you dig into the crunchy topping is just pure bliss. Ok you are now making us hungry!!!! Just pinned.

  31. Woo hoo, Liz! I love this dessert but have never ventured to try it, now I have to after seeing yours! I never gave a thought to using the broiler instead of a torch. Good thinking! No excuse now! Thanks so much for the recipe!!
    I’m back to blogging now, couldn’t stay away! 🙂

  32. Liz, this is the best recipe~!!! Thanks for this.

  33. This is one of the desserts I’ll always go for in a restaurant but I’m not brave enough to try it myself. I’m pinning so when i’m finally ready I can go through your tips again – thanks.

  34. Yum. Hi, love your post. I have a new blog party and would like to invite you to come share this on the CLASSY FLAMINGOS BLOG PARTY held each Tuesday evening thru Friday. You’ll get large picture exposure and shout outs on all of my social media sites. You may get PINKED and you’ll get even more exposure! I hope you’ll come by. poinsettiadr.com

  35. This is my absolute favorite dessert and it’s so easy to make! Thank you for this!

  36. I made these for my husband and he said this was the best he ever had! Thank you!

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