Easy Pumpkin Custard

published Aug 25, 2021
halloween
Pumpkin Custard Recipe

Pumpkin custard is the ideal dessert for anyone who loves the filling in pumpkin pie.

Serves6

Prep15 minutes

Cook1 hour to 1 hour 5 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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a ramekin of pumpkin custard with whipped cream on top, and a spoonful on the side
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Styling: Kristina Vanni

Pumpkin custard is the ideal dessert for anyone who loves the filling in pumpkin pie. Essentially the delicious filling of a classic pumpkin pie baked in a ramekin and without a crust, pumpkin custard is an easy and chic pumpkin pie alternative. A dollop of whipped cream is the most traditional and classic topping, but I decided to add one extra twist to this festive treat.

While the custard is in the oven, I like to prepare simple candied pecans for garnish. Just a bit of brown sugar, some pumpkin pie spice, and a dash of vanilla is all you need to take pecans to the next level. The custard could also be topped with a drizzle of salted caramel, or even some peanut brittle. With a holiday season that is overflowing with pies, it is fun to create an individual-sized dessert that your guests can customize with their own creative topping ideas.

What’s the Difference Between Custard and Pudding?

While custard and pudding might seem similar, there are a few key differences between the two.

  • Custards tend to be firmer than pudding. They’re thickened with eggs and are often cooked in water baths for even, gentle heating.
  • Pudding typically uses a starch for thickening and is prepared on the stovetop.
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Styling: Kristina Vanni

Why Do I Need a Water Bath?

Preparing this pumpkin custard in a water bath gently cooks the filling to achieve velvety, smooth results. There’s no reason to be intimidated by this technique: All you have to do is place the ramekins in a baking pan with high sides (a 9×13 cake pan or roasting pan works well), then fill in the space in between the ramekins with hot water. You know it has been filled enough when the water goes about one inch up the sides. That’s it! Plus, you can brag to your guests that you used a very fancy cooking technique called a “bain marie” and they will think you put far more effort into the dessert than you actually did.

How Do I know a Custard Is Done?

You can test a custard for doneness in the same way you would a cake. Simply poke a toothpick or wooden skewer into the center of one of the custards: If it comes out clean, the custard is fully cooked.

Pumpkin Custard Recipe

Pumpkin custard is the ideal dessert for anyone who loves the filling in pumpkin pie.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 1 hour to 1 hour 5 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the custard:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    pumpkin purée

  • 1 cup

    half-and-half

  • 2/3 cup

    packed brown sugar

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • Cooking spray

For the candied pecans:

  • 1/2 cup

    packed brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 cup

    pecan halves (about 4 ounces)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

For serving:

  • Whipped cream

  • Pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

Make the custard:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Place 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée, 1 cup half-and-half, 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a stand mixer (or place in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer or sturdy whisk). Beat with the paddle attachment until smooth.

  3. Coat 6 (8-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray. Evenly divide the custard batter between the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a large baking pan with high sides. Pour enough hot water into the pan, being careful not to get any water into the ramekins, to come 1 inch up the sides of the baking pan.

  4. Carefully transfer the baking pan to the oven. Bake uncovered until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 5 minutes. (This is a good time to make the candied pecans.) Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack. Let cool until slightly warm, or cool completely and refrigerate until chilled.

Make the candied pecans:

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons water, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes.

  2. Add 1/2 cup pecan halves and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.

  3. Pour the pecans onto the baking sheet. Spread out in a single layer, separating the pecans. Let cool completely. Break apart any pecans that have stuck together with your hands.

  4. To serve, top each custard with some of the candied pecans, a dollop of whipped cream, and a dusting of pumpkin pie spice.

Recipe Notes

Ingredients: Make sure you are purchasing a can of 100% pure pumpkin purée, not a can of prepared pumpkin pie mix.

Storage: Cover cooled custards with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Dollop with whipped cream and garnish with candied pecans and pumpkin spice just before serving.