This Easy Crème Brûlée is made with just four ingredients and features a rich custard base with a crisp caramelized topping.

Two white ramekins filled with homemade crème brûlée and a white napkin and two spoons on the side.

Do you have plans for Valentine’s Day? We don’t have much planned, but one thing on my list of things to make for the big day is this homemade crème brûlée!

While crème brûlée seems like a fancy and difficult dessert, it’s actually pretty easy to make. In fact, you only need four ingredients to make this recipe: egg yolks, sugar, heavy whipping cream, and some vanilla extract. That’s it! 

This recipe makes four servings, but you can easily cut it in half to just make two. And if you don’t have a small torch to caramelize the sugar on the top of this dessert, I’m also sharing how to broil it in your oven.

Ingredients for This Recipe

The list of crème brûlée ingredients is short and sweet (no pun intended!). Here’s what goes into this easy recipe: 

  • Egg yolks: Save the egg whites for an omelette or meringue! 
  • Granulated sugar: Gets mixed into the custard to sweeten it and is also sprinkled on top to caramelize. 
  • Heavy whipping cream: Should be at least 36% fat. 
  • Vanilla extract: Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor. 

A clear glass bowl filled with egg yolks whisked with sugar and a white napkin on the side.

How to Make Crème Brûlée

To make this easy crème brûlée, start by setting a pot of water to boil while you’re preparing the mixture. The water will be used for a water bath to cook them in, which I’ll explain a little later on.

Then, whisk together six egg yolks and some sugar. You want to make sure to whisk them together just until the mixture is a pale yellow color like the picture above. Then, just set the bowl aside while you heat up your heavy whipping cream.

Now, some recipes call for just whisking all of the ingredients together and not heating up the cream first. However, I find that heating the cream and then tempering the eggs with it helps the eggs withstand the higher temperature of the oven. 

A clear glass bowl filled with the crème brûlée mixture and a white napkin on the side of the bowl.

To heat the cream, simply place it in a saucepan over medium heat. Once your cream is steaming and bubbling around the edges, remove it from the heat and stir in your vanilla extract. The next step is to temper the eggs, which helps bring up the temperature of the eggs so that once you add the rest of the cream the eggs don’t end up scrambled. I promise this step is easy though!

To temper the eggs, slowly pour in about half a cup of the warm cream into the egg and sugar mixture whisking well as you’re pouring it in. Then, slowly pour in the rest of the cream and continue whisking. You may end up with a little layer of foam on top of the mixture, I like to just skim it off with a spoon so that it doesn’t end up on top of the crème brûlée as it bakes.

Tempering the eggs will help prevent your eggs from completely scrambling, but it is still best to strain the mixture to remove any little bits of egg that may have cooked from pouring in the cream. I like to use a fine mesh strainer and pour it into a large glass measuring cup so it’s easy to pour into the ramekins. 

An 8-inch square glass baking dish with four white ramekins filled with the crème brûlée and water inside the dish.

Next, pour the crème brûlée into four 6-ounce ramekins. You can use any size ramekins that you like for this recipe, but I really love these 6-ounce ramekins. You can also use them to make my molten chocolate lava cakes for two!

Then, fill a baking dish with the boiling water about 1/3 of the way full and place the ramekins in it. The water should come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This will create a water bath for the crème brûlée so that it bakes slowly and evenly in the oven. 

Once they’re done, let them cool at room temperature, then refrigerate them for at least 4 hours or overnight. Once they’re thoroughly chilled, you’ll top each one with some granulated sugar (superfine sugar works great if you have it on hand!) and use a small kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar.

FAQ’s

How Long Do You Bake Crème Brûlée?

The crème brûlée will take anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes in the oven and the baking time will vary slightly if you use a different size ramekin. You’ll know they’re finished once the edges are set and they’re still slightly jiggly in the center.

Do I Have to Use a Kitchen Torch? 

A small kitchen torch will work best for caramelizing the sugar on top, but you may also broil these in the oven. If you do broil these in the oven, I suggest placing them back in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so that the custard will be chilled.

I’ve given detailed instructions on how to use the broiler method in the recipe card below. 

Can I Prep This Recipe in Advance? 

Yes! Bake them off as the recipe instructs, then refrigerate for up to 3 days. Top with sugar and torch just before serving. 

A close-up of a white ramekin filled with crème brûlée and a spoon inside of it along with another crème brûlée and white napkin.

Baking Tips

  • Make sure to set a pot of water on the stove to boil before you get started, this will be used for a water bath for the crème brûlée.
  • When adding the warm heavy whipping cream, make sure to slowly mix in about half a cup and whisk well as you’re mixing it in. This will temper the eggs so that they don’t scramble as you pour in the rest of the warm cream.
  • Once you’ve fully whisked in the warm heavy whipping cream there may be a small layer of foam on top of your mixture. I suggest scraping this off with a spoon before straining it and filling your ramekins.
  • If there is moisture on top of the crème brûlée once it’s been chilled, blot the tops with a paper towel before sprinkling the sugar on top.

More Easy Holiday Desserts to Try! 

Video Tutorial

A close-up picture of a white ramekin filled with crème brûlée and a spoon inside of it.

Crème Brûlée

5 from 20 ratings
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
This Easy Crème Brûlée is made with just four ingredients and features a rich custard base with a crisp caramelized topping.

Ingredients

Servings: 4 servings
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (480 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar (for the topping)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Set aside.
  • Pour the heavy whipping cream in a medium-sized saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the cream is warm and bubbling around the edges. Remove the cream from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the warm heavy whipping cream into the egg and sugar mixture making sure to whisk well as you're pouring it in. Then, slowly pour in the remaining cream and continue whisking until fully combined. If there's a thin layer of foam on top of the mixture, you can skim this off with a spoon at this point.
  • Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, then evenly distribute between four 6-ounce ramekins.
  • Pour the boiling water into an 8-inch square baking pan (or larger pan if you prefer) about 1/3 of the way full. Carefully place the ramekins in the baking dish. The water should come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. If needed, add a little more boiling water to the pan.
  • Carefully place the baking pan in the oven. Bake at 325°F (163°C) for 35 to 45 minutes or until the edges are set and the center is slightly jiggly. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the ramekins from the pan using tongs or pot holders and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Once chilled, blot the tops of each custard with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Sprinkle 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of sugar on top of each custard, shake it around into one even layer, then use a small kitchen torch to carefully caramelize the sugar. Allow the sugar to harden for 1 to 2 minutes, then serve and enjoy, or refrigerate for a few hours until ready to serve.

Notes

Broiler instructions: If you do not have a small kitchen torch, you may broil these in the oven to caramelize the sugar on top. Once the custard is chilled, set your oven to broil and place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and broil for about 5 to 6 minutes or until the sugar is caramelized. Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool. The custard will be warm if you broil these in the oven, so I do suggest refrigerating them for 30 minutes to an hour to chill the custard again.
To prepare ahead of time: Bake as the recipe instructs and cool completely. Once cooled, cover each one tightly with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Right before serving, add the granulated sugar on top and use a torch to caramelize the topping. 
Slightly adapted from Betty Crocker.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle
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