Easy Creme Caramel

Crème Caramel is a smooth, creamy custard topped with rich molten caramel.  It’s elegant enough for company and easy enough for everyday–a top contender for the perfect dessert.  

creme caramel

Crème Caramel is the darling of baked custards.  Think creamy custard with a golden crown of caramel. It was on my “to try” list, well… forever.    

I first fell in love with this special dessert in college, when I studied for a semester in Ireland.  My host “mother” had studied at Cordon Bleu school while living in Paris and this was a favorite dinner dessert.  Yes, eat an amazing meal, then top it off with an amazing dessert! 

creme caramel

What is Crème Caramel

Per Wikipedia, “Crème caramel is a variant of plain custard (crème) where sugar syrup cooked to caramel stage is poured into the mold before adding the custard base. It is usually cooked in a bain-marie on a stovetop or in the oven in a water bath.”  It is then unmolded, or turned upside down then shaken out of its mold, so that the caramel layer is on top and loose caramel cascades down the sides.

It’s sometimes also called flan, caramel custard, or caramel pudding.

Yum!

creme caramel

Why You’ll Love This!

Tasty.  The creamy vanilla custard topped with a rich caramel is elegant and so very tasty!

Easy.  While it looks like a challenging dessert, this is really quite easy.  (Shhh!)

Impressive.  This dish is almost magical and is sure to impress your guests!  Or even your kids!  

creme caramel

What You’ll Need

Ingredient Notes

  • Granulated Sugar.  This transforms into the caramel topping as well as sweetens the custard.
  • Water.  This is used in making the caramel topping.
  • Whole Milk.  This forms the bulk of the custard base.   
  • Heavy cream.  This adds richness to the custard.
  • Salt.  Salt is a flavor enhancer.
  • Eggs.  Eggs add richness and flavor and they thicken the custard.
  • Vanilla.  This adds flavor to the custard.  I like to use a vanilla paste if possible to get the beautiful vanilla beans in the custard, but extract will work as well.
  • Optional Berries and herb leaves for garnish.  I will garnish with berries any time or seasonal toppings!  And mint leaves are always great to have on hand.

Special Tools

  • You’ll need ramekins or other dishes suitable for baking the custard.

Step by Step Directions

Bring sugar and water for caramel to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook, without stirring until golden around the edges.

boil sugar and water

Pour 1/4 of the hot caramel into each ramekins and swirl about 1/4 inch up the side.. Let the caramel harden.

caramel in ramekin

Whisk the custard ingredients. Heat until the sugar dissolves and it is warm, but not hot.

whisk custard ingredients

Strain through a strainer into a 1-quart measuring cup.

strain

Pour 1/4 of the custard mix into each ramekin. Place into baking dish and add water

add water to baking dish

Bake until the near center of the custard reaches 175F on an instant read thermometer or until a knife inserted slightly off center comes out clean.  Let cool on rack, then cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.  Decorate with berries and fresh herbs if desired

creme caramel

How I Simplified the Standard Recipe

When I finally tried making Crème Caramel, I was delighted with how easy it turned out to be but I did make a couple changes to the classic recipe to simplify it. 

First, custard recipes often call for scalding the milk ahead of time, which many sources feel is probably a carryover from the days before pasteurization.  And if you mix eggs and hot milk, you risk “scrambling” your eggs (not creamy). 

Instead I combine everything while cool, then stir the mix over medium heat until it is slightly warm and the sugar has dissolved.  Easy peasy.

Second, when I bake it, rather than rely on the “jiggle test” to tell if the custard is done, I take its temperature with an instant read thermometer. Jiggling usually gets me a slightly overcooked custard (a custard is a bit overcooked if there are tiny bubbles around the outside–still delicious, just not as creamy), while an instant read thermometer is far more reliable. 

Sources differ on the best temperature to shoot for, but it is somewhere under 180 F (unless your custard includes a starch like flour or cornstarch which raises the temperature tolerance of the eggs).  I use 175 F as my goal. 

Creme caramel

How to Serve

This is an impressive dessert that can work beautifully after a nice dinner.   And because it is prepared ahead of time, all you need to do that night is unmold and decorate, which takes just a few minutes.  I slide a thin knife along the edge of the ramekin, set a small serving plate on top, flip, then shake gently in a downward motion and pull off the ramekin. 

Once the liquid part of the caramel has pooled, I top with berries or other pretty garnishes.  Berries are great anytime or consider decorating with seasonal toppings like pomegranate seeds and rosemary at Christmas. 

The favorite time I served these was for my daughter’s garden party wedding celebration.  We had the main course catered, but I did appetizers and a dessert bar.  Plates of beautiful crème caramel sat alongside mini cheesecake bites and heat-shaped brownies for an elegant end to the festivities! 

creme caramel christmas garnish

Preparation and Leftovers

You’ll need to make this at least 8 hours before serving and ideally the day before.  Leave any unneeded desserts in their mold/ramekin until needed.  Use within 3 days.

Variations

People sometimes will do a single large crème caramel in a larger tart pan.  I’ve never tried this myself but it always looks good.

Crème caramel is closely related to crème brulee, the custard with a crunchy caramelized sugar topping.  Both are amazingly good, but crème caramel is easier and much more practical for a large gathering.

creme caramel

Tips & FAQs

This recipe is for 4 servings which works well for a small dinner party.  But I’ve made this for a larger gathering many times.  Now in that case I still make the caramel portion 4 dishes at a time.  The hot caramel cools quickly and I find it’s much less risky do this in smaller amounts.  

Use vanilla paste (or even a vanilla bean) instead of extract if you have it.  I love to see the beautiful vanilla beans dotting a pretty dessert like this.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it, I always say!  

Since it requires a long resting time (Fine Cooking says at least 12 hours–and I found that the longer I waited, the more caramel melted into the custard), consider making a couple extra just in case an extra guest drops in.

Even if you wait 48 hours to unmold your crème caramel, there will still be some extra caramel stuck to the ramekin. While it may seem hard as a rock, remember that sugar is water soluble.  So just soak the crusty dish in water to dissolve the caramel.

And for other great things to do with eggs, take a look at some more tasty egg dishes…

Incredible Egg Recipes

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creme carame;

Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel is a smooth, creamy custard topped with rich molten caramel.  It’selegant enough for company and easy enough for everyday--and a top contenderfor the perfect dessert.  
Author: Inger
4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
wait time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 55 mins
Course Dessert
Servings 4
Calories 347 kcal

Ingredients
  

Caramel

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water

Custard

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk you can freeze the white for later
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • Optional Berries and herb leaves for garnish

Instructions
 

Prepare caramel

  • Take out 4 small ramekins and have them ready to go.
  • In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water for the caramel. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring (stirring cooking sugar will cause crystallization) until the mixture starts to turn golden around the edges, 5 to 8 minutes. (Watch closely because once the mixture starts to change color, it will go from good to burnt quickly). Gently swirl the pan once or twice to even out the cooking and prevent the sugar from burning in patches. Continue to cook until the sugar turns medium amber, about 30 seconds more.
  • Working quickly, pour about 1/4 of the hot caramel into the first ramekin and swirl about 1/4 inch up the side. Repeat with the remaining three ramekins. Let the caramel harden and prepare the custard.

Prepare custard

  • Preheat oven to 325F.
  • Whisk the eggs in a medium saucepan, then whisk in the remaining ingredients. Heat the custard mixture until the sugar dissolves and it is warm, but not hot. Strain through a strainer into a 1-quart measuring cup.
  • Pour 1/4 of the custard mix into each ramekin--pour in once only, do not top off. Place ramekins into a baking dish and into the oven, then pour very hot water into the pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins, being careful not to splash water into the custard.
  • Bake the custards in the water bath until the near center of the custard reaches 175F on an instant read thermometer, 30 to 45 minutes (see note). If you don't have an instant read thermometer, insert a knife slightly off center and it should come out clean.
  • Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and cool completely. I usually use a slotted pancake turner or a canning jar grabber to remove the first couple, before removing from the oven (I have splashed my custard at this point too). Once cool, cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours (see note), or up to 3 days.
  • To serve, run a small knife in a smooth (not sawing) motion around the edge of each ramekin to loosen the custard. Place a small plate on top of the ramekin, then invert. If the creme caramel doesn’t release, you can gently shake up and down a few times to help loosen, holding the plate and ramekin tightly together.
  • Decorate with berries and fresh herbs if desired

Notes

If you want to double the recipe, I suggest that you either make the caramel in two batches or get someone to help you swirl the caramel in the cups while you pour -- the caramel can burn or harden if you take too long.
There is one exception to the 175 F rule and that is a deep custard. This should work in a standard dish, evenly divided by 4, but one time when I went deeper (due to a dish issue), the deeper custards tested to 175 but came out too soft at the bottom of the dish (the "top" when inverted). I believe the thermometer registered the 175 F of the top while the bottom was still too cool. So for a deeper custard, you may still need the "jiggle test," aka remove when it has a slight jiggle.
I haven't tried serving my creme caramel without a rest of at least 8 hours (Fine Cooking says 12) but others serve more quickly. If you have other experience here, let me know.
Calories will actually be lower since some of the sugar remains in both the pan and the ramekins/molds.

Nutrition

Calories: 347kcalCarbohydrates: 46gProtein: 6gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 171mgSodium: 65mgPotassium: 156mgSugar: 46gVitamin A: 720IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 113mgIron: 1mg
I am not a health professional and nutrition data is calculated programatically. Accuracy may vary with product selection, calculator accuracy, etc. Consult a professional for the best information.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Updated from the original dated March 22, 2018

150 thoughts on “Easy Creme Caramel

  1. Sand

    I’ve been recovering from the flu, so I haven’t made anything lately. But I have been wanting to bake an orange cardamom cake.

  2. Buddy Garrett

    I tried subscribing to your email but I received a message saying there was a problem and try again. I tried again.

  3. Leela

    I’ve tried a new lemon biscotti recipe I really like. I’ve made it twice in the last month.

  4. Sarah L

    Haven’t tried any new recipes lately, but now I want to make this.
    Thanks for the contest.

  5. Julie

    I tried a new carrot cupcake recipe today it was delish.. I added fresh ginger and fresh nutmeg…I will make it again….

  6. Claudia

    Last weekend, I made for the first time Apple Cinnamon muffins. I bought granny smiths and apple cider at the green market near my apartment for that recipe and they turned out fantastic.

  7. Mary Beth Elderton

    These Caramel cremes look delicious! They also look fancy on the plate without being top difficult to make. I haven;t really been experimenting in the kitchen too much lately, so I don;t have a great new idea….but I pinned this recipe to try soon.

  8. Lisa Vanhook

    Yes I have tried a new dish recently. From memory of watching my mother in law I made “Chicken and Dumplings” they turned out wonderful!

  9. Annmarie W.

    My hubby recently came home from the health club, where he had seen the folks on The Kitchen (on FoodTV) making crockpot lasagna soup. I found the recipe online & tried it…and it was delicious! Will definitely be making it again!

  10. Kerry P

    I have not tried the recipes, but I love their vanilla extract. Once I tried it, I can’t bring myself to buy any other brand!

  11. Katie Bellamy

    It’s been a bust in the recipe department lately. I gotta scroll through others answers! 🙂

  12. Summer D

    I am constantly trying new recipes! I’ve been looking for a no-bean chili that my family loves, so I try a new chili recipe every couple of weeks. I also just made banana oatmeal cookies for the first time that were delicious.

  13. Allyson Tice

    i recently tried a strawberry cream cake filled with real berries and whipped buttercream icing! delish!

  14. Stephanie Liske

    My daughter made a lil petite four recipe, but I’m not allowed to try them until tomorrow.

  15. Nataliej

    I just baked an amazing almond butter cake as well as a praline cheesecake. Recipes from a friends grandma. Super delicious

  16. Deb Ford

    I found a new lemon pound cake recipe that uses buttermilk and boy what a difference one ingredient can make. I’ve made it twice in as many weeks!

  17. kathy pease

    Sadly I have not tried any new recipes lately but I need to start finding new and tasty dishes to try for my hubby

  18. angie w

    I can’t think of any new recipes I tried lately. I did make a tried and true recipe last week, however – red velvet cupcakes!

  19. susan smoaks

    today i made a new soup with just veggies and it is really good. i am glad i tried the recipe.

  20. Casey Garvey

    I am not much of a cook. I stick to basic, easy stuff. I havent tried anything good or nre lately.

  21. Julie Waldron

    I tried a new cookie recipe a month or two ago. It was called Smorgasbord Cookies and they had a little bit of everthing in them.

  22. Kaycee Schoellhorn

    I just bought a cookbook all about bread so I have been trying a lot of good new bread recipes. My two favorites were probably the cheesy quick bread and the dinner rolls!

  23. Kelly mcgrew

    I made a fathead pizza dough as I cut most carbs from my diet. Tasted just like traditional pizza dough!

  24. Tandy | Lavender and Lime

    Your crème caramel looks amazing! I am going to try your tip about using a thermometer to test the doneness of the custard. Had my first ever crème brûlée failure the other day. I am alson intrigued about not tempering the eggs so will try that too.

  25. Noreen

    I recently tried making water challah, it is now a family favorite that I’ve made a few times.

  26. ellie sheely

    I found a from scratch easy recipe for brownies using almond flour.When cutting back the sugar/and or subbing just a bit of the sugar for Stevia, I get a tasty and pretty “healthy” sweet snack. Adding chopped nuts or raw honey boosts the neutraceutica content. But I have an interest in learning more about custard desserts. thanks for the chance.

  27. desiree

    i am buy my self most of the time so i do small dished but i have gf who would do it for me she cook she got me to eat some cajun food

  28. Samantha Plotkin

    I tried a new no-chill sugar cookie recipe with my daughter today. It was much easier not to have to wait for the dough to chill for a little one and came out just as tasty.

  29. Cindy L

    Not too recently, but over the winter I tried a butternut squash soup recipe that had a spicy apple and nut relish on top. It was pretty good!

  30. Kristie

    We tried Zuppa Toscana soup recently! It was an Olive Garden copycat. Amazing!! kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you. Happy Easter!

  31. Christina Litchfield

    I tried garlic bread soup yesterday. Lots of garlic and paprika. Really good for an unusual flavor combo I’ve never tried before.

  32. Karen D

    I haven’t had much time lately to try new recipes. Been sticking with my stand-bys like pound cake and blueberry muffins

  33. Angelica

    This looks delicious! I just tried a new recipe for banana flour waffles with wild blueberries and they’re SOOO good!

  34. Angela Hendricks

    I haven’t tried anything new lately! After seeing your post I am going to try and make some flan. I love flan and could save so much money by making it myself.

  35. Valencia

    I recently tried a recipe for french toast coated in crushed cereal. I was ok with it but not excited. This weekend I will trying a recipe for Butternut Cake. The pictures I have seen look good so my fingers are crossed.

  36. Jennifer Pickett

    I haven’t tried any new recipes lately though I plan on trying a Thai Coconut Milk soup this coming weekend, and there is a chicken recipe in the last Cooking Light that I just may try as well.

  37. Dana Matthews

    What a beautiful dessert! Yes, I have tried a new recipe. I love trying new recipes. Right now I have a 3 Day Coconut Cake “marinating” in the fridge. My dad recalled eating a slice years ago so I looked up the recipe and it will be ready for him tomorrow!

  38. Grace Mitchell

    Mmmm…my ginger creme brûlée recipe is already tp die for, but adding vanilla paste would be outstanding!

  39. Annamarie V

    I have not tried any new recipes lately but I would love to try the vanilla paste in my famous pecan pie recipe, I think it would make it even better.

  40. Paula Hafner

    Yes. Do you have an instant pot? I’ve been making the cold start yogurt. I strain it to make it into Greek. I make a cheese like ricotta from the whey and some milk. I also made these awesome blueberry yogurt muffins. I love trying new recipes!!!

  41. Brenda Haines

    I made Everything Dutch Oven Bread and some cream cheese/marionberry thumbprint cookies last week that were amazing!

  42. Cynthia C

    I tried a seafood curry recipe recently that turned out well. Everyone liked it. I want to make the creme caramel recipe for my Easter dinner this Sunday. I love that it can be made ahead.

  43. Melodie

    I love to try new recipes. I just did a new recipe tonight of chicken noodle soup. It was really good too.

  44. Donna Willis

    I have not tried these but my granddaughter and i would really like to try these as they aseem yummy.

  45. karen

    I made my own aloo paratha for the first time last week, it was fun and easier than I thought

  46. Susan Christy

    I’ve been grilling a lot lately, and haven’t tried any new recipes, which is unusual for me!

  47. Michelle StPierre

    I recently bought a bottle of real maple sera up infused with an entire vanilla bean. My daughter and I, whom is eight, decided to make a maple vanilla cheesecake. It was one of the most delicious thing we have ever made. We are making another one for Easter and can’t wait to share with all of our friends and family. She and I would be so excited to win this we only use real vanilla, imitation just shouldn’t be a thing.

  48. Michelle StPierre

    I subscribe, I’m so happy I found your blog! I am obsessed with real vanilla anything. Thanks for the chance!

  49. Holly B

    I have been putting my breadmaker to good use! It’s so easy to make bread now, and I found a great pizza dough recipe…I’d love to win this paste to use in a banana bread!

  50. Chelsea V

    I tried a new recipe for zucchini bread recently, but I think I need to go back to my original recipe – nothing beats a classic!

  51. Rosie

    I signed up for Art of Natural Living emails! The Creme Caramel looks delish, 5-star restaurant quality – nothing better than using the freshest eggs, milk and cream and the best vanilla, makes a huge difference.

  52. Rosie

    I found really good rhubarb this past week, even though it is not growing where we are yet, it looked so bright and fresh, like it had just been picked from a local garden. I made a rhubarb cobbler with honey and vanilla, it was so good! A taste of spring!

  53. Tim

    The most recent new recipe we tried was drop biscuits. They were so much easier to make because we didn’t have to roll them out and cut them, but the oddball shape made them harder to cut in half for butter and jam.

  54. David

    My favorite new recipe is a pasta with citrus cream – a revelation.

    I love Nielsen-Massey’s vanilla extract , but have not had their paste.

    As you know, I am already a subscriber! 🙂

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