Crème Caramel

published Feb 4, 2022
Crème Caramel Recipe

What makes this silky custard dessert so rich is the caramel sauce that's baked into it.

Serves6

Makes6 (4-ounce) ramekins

Prep40 minutes

Cook45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Crème caramel (also known as flan, caramel pudding or caramel custard is a custard dessert with a layer of clear caramel sauce) on a plate with a spoon on the side
Credit: Maria Do

Crème caramel is a silky custard dessert that’s baked with a thin caramel sauce. This elegant French recipe celebrates simple ingredients — cream, vanilla, eggs, and sugar — and gives them the gentle touch of a water bath, also known as a “bain-marie.” The slow and steady heat from the bain-marie cooks the crème caramel slowly and evenly, resulting in a velvety-smooth mouthfeel.

This dessert is perfect for home cooks who love to impress but need to prepare a simple dessert ahead of time because crème caramel is best if refrigerated overnight. When ready to serve, simply run a knife around the edges, invert each crème caramel onto a plate, and let the caramel sauce run down the edges of the custard.

What Does Crème Caramel Taste Like?

Crème caramel tastes like creamy vanilla custard, with a texture that is a bit more dense than American pudding. That custard is topped with a sweet and nutty caramel sauce. 

Crème Caramel Versus Flan

Crème caramel and flan are often confused with one another, for good reason. Custard and caramel sauce are the main components of both flan and crème caramel and both are desserts.

  • Geography: Both dishes are wildly popular in many countries, but flan is often tied to Latin America, while crème caramel is rooted in France. 
  • Adaptations: In a few places, such as the United Kingdom, flan can mean something else entirely and can include pastry and a filling. In this case, the filling can sometimes be savory and flan can be a main course.
Credit: Maria Do

Are Crème Brulée and Crème Caramel the Same?

While crème brulée and creme caramel have a similar custard base, hence the word “crème” in both names, they differ in the sugar topping. Crème brulée is served in its ramekin with a torched or “bruléed” shell of sugar that hardens and cracks. Crème caramel is served inverted, outside of the ramekin, with a thin caramel sauce running down the edges. 

Crème Caramel Recipe

What makes this silky custard dessert so rich is the caramel sauce that's baked into it.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Makes 6 (4-ounce) ramekins

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the custard:

  • 3

    large egg yolks

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1/3 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2

    vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups

    heavy cream

  • 1 cup

    whole milk

  • 4 cups

    water

For the caramel:

  • 2/3 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup

    water

Instructions

  1. Remove all but the bottom rack from the oven and heat the oven to 300ºF.

Make the custard:

  1. Place 3 large egg yolks, 1 large egg, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk until combined.

  2. If using a vanilla bean, split 1/2 vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle with a paring knife, then scrape the seeds out into a small saucepan and add the bean. (If using vanilla extract, reserve for the end of this step.) Add 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk. Heat over medium-high heat until simmering, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and discard the vanilla bean if needed. If using vanilla extract, add 2 teaspoons to the hot cream mixture now.

  3. While continuously whisking the egg and sugar mixture, carefully and slowly pour in a little of the hot cream to temper the eggs. (You want to bring the eggs up to temperature without scrambling them.) Whisk in the remaining hot cream in a steady stream until well-combined, about 1 minute. Use a large spoon to scrape off and discard the foam from the top. If the bowl does not have a pouring lip, transfer the custard to a large liquid measuring cup or pitcher to make pouring easier. You should have about 24 to 28 ounces custard total.

Make the caramel:

  1. Place 2/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a completely dry and clean small saucepan. Cook over medium heat undisturbed until it reaches a light amber color, 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups water to a boil, and arrange 6 (4-ounce) or 4 (6-ounce) ramekins in a 9x13-inch baking dish or roasting pan.

  2. Once the caramel is light amber, turn off the heat and swirl the caramel around in the pan to reduce the bubbles. Then, working quickly, pour the caramel into the ramekins and swirl to evenly coat the bottoms. The caramel will harden fast.

  3. Fill each ramekin with the custard up to the raised line right below the lip, or about 1/2-inch from the top. Carefully place the baking dish on the bottom rack of the oven. Pour enough boiling water into the baking dish, being careful not to splash any onto the custards, to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.

  4. Bake until the custards are nearly set but still jiggle like jello, 40 to 45 minutes for 4-ounce ramekins, or 45 to 50 minutes for 6-ounce ramekins. (If they ripple like water, they need more time.)

  5. Remove the baking dish from the oven and uncover. Let the custards cool in the water until room temperature, about 45 minutes. Individually wrap each ramekin with plastic wrap, then refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

  6. When ready to serve, run a small thin knife around each crème caramel so they release easily. Invert a small plate over the ramekin, then flip both at the same time to unmold the crème caramel onto the plate; let the caramel drip down the edges. (If the crème caramels do not unmold easily, dip the bottoms of the ramekin in hot water for a few seconds to help release the sides.)

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate crème caramel, lightly covered, for up to 5 days.