Creme Caramel

6 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Chilling Time 8 hours
Total Time 9 hours 20 minutes

Creme Caramel is a creamy vanilla custard baked in caramel sauce. Learn how to make this classic dessert with my easy to follow recipe!

Creme Caramel is like Mexican Flan meets Creme Brulee for a classic French Dessert that is simple yet decadent. Make this rich, silky custard dessert for your next dinner party and wow your guests with your newfound culinary techniques!

About Sabrina’s Creme Caramel Recipe

When it comes to creamy, rich and silky custard desserts, my Creme Caramel wins hands down for elegant simplicity. It is a testament to the beauty of French cooking that focuses on technique and careful handling of everyday ingredients. But as sophisticated as it sounds, all you need is milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and my handy step by step guide to make the perfect Creme Caramel for your dessert menu.

What is Creme Caramel?

Creme Caramel, or Caramel Cream, is a French baked egg custard dessert that looks similar to Spanish Flan and Creme Brulee. Like it’s French and Spanish twins, it is a silky custard dessert with a sweet caramelized topping but there a few key differences. Unlike Spanish Flan, the custard base is made with just four ingredients – eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. It has a smooth, thin caramel sauce topping instead of the caramelized sugar topping of Creme Brulee.

Creme Caramel ingredients separated in prep bowls and eggs on counter.
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Ingredients

  • Caramel: To make caramel, all you need is water, sugar, time and patience. Don’t try to rush the caramel and do not stir it. Also, it goes from candy to caramel to burnt in seconds, so don’t take your eyes off of it.
  • Eggs: The fresher your eggs, the better the texture and flavor of your creamy custard base. Also use room temperature eggs so they are less likely to curdle when you add the hot milk mixture.
  • Milk: One of the things that sets Creme Caramel apart from other baked egg custard desserts is that you just use regular milk, no heavy cream or canned milk. You’ll want to use whole milk and be careful not to let it boil or scald when heating it.
  • Sugar: This sweet dessert has sugar in the caramel topping and for the creamy custard base. Granulated sugar is best because it will dissolve easily in both the water and the milk.
  • Vanilla: Vanilla is the classic flavor of Caramel Custard, and since there are only 4 ingredients, you’ll want to use a good quality, real vanilla extract.
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Kitchen Tools & Equipment

  • Ramekins: I used standard 7-9 ounce ramekins to make these Creme Caramel desserts. If you use other sizes, you’ll need to adjust the baking time.
  • Water Bath: A hot water bath is key to even cooking and the best creamy texture. A little hack to make it more effective is add a sheet of baking paper to the baking pan before you add the water and ramekins.
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How to Make

Time needed: 9 hours and 20 minutes.

  1. Prep for Baking

    Preheat your oven. Have water ready and boiling for the water bath on a back burner. Set out 6 individual size ramekins or place them in a 10×14 inch baking dish without touching.

  2. Make the Caramel Sauce

    In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, add the sugar and water. Shake the pan to help the sugar dissolve. Once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot, do NOT stir the mixture or shake the pan. Cook until the sugar mixture is a golden brown color, about 8-10 minutes. Do no stir the mixture and do not leave it unattended.Creme Caramel cooked caramel sauce in large sauce pan with eggs and vanilla in prep bowls at bottom of frame.

  3. Pour Caramel into Dishes

    Carefully pour a thin layer of caramel sauce in the bottom of each ramekin.Creme Caramel close up of pouring caramel sauce from pan into ramekin.

  4. Make the Custard

    Whisk the eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth and set aside. In a small sauce pan, whisk the sugar and milk until the sugar is dissolved over medium heat. Heat it until just simmering then remove from the heat. Creme Caramel whisked egg mixture in large measuring cup and hot milk mixture in sauce pan.

  5. Temper the Eggs

    Begin slowly steaming the hot milk mixture into the eggs while whisking continuously. Creme Caramel tempering milk and egg mixture in large glass measuring cup with whisk.

  6. Add Custard Layer

    Pour the egg mixture over the caramel layer, dividing evenly between the ramekins.Creme Caramel pouring custard over caramel sauce in ramekins in baking dish. Six ramekins total, top 3 filled with custard, filling center left ramekin, and bottom 2 with just caramel sauce.

  7. Bake the Custard

    If they aren’t already in there, place the ramekins in your large baking dish so they are not touching. Pour enough boiling water to fill the pan around the ramekins with 1 inch of water. Be careful not to splash the hot water into the custard as you pour or place the pan in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes. The edges should be set and the middle slightly jiggles.Creme Caramel six baked custards in ramekins in baking pan

  8. Chill and Set

    Let the custards cool in the baking pan for 15 minutes before transferring the cups to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely. Cover the cooled custards with plastic and refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours.Creme Caramel baked custards in ramekins surrounding empty white plate. Spoons and knife near plate and ramekins

  9. Plate and Serve

    Slide a knife inside the cups around the custard. Place a plate upside down on the ramekin lip then flip the whole thing over. The custard should slide out and the caramel sauce should run down the sides.Creme Caramel removing ramekin from custard and sauce on plate.

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Can this be made ahead?

Yes! You can bake the Creme Caramel the day before you want to serve them and store them in their ramekins. Covered the dishes individually with plastic wrap to keep out odors.

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Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts
Creme Caramel
Amount Per Serving
Calories 239 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Trans Fat 0.01g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 134mg45%
Sodium 79mg3%
Potassium 171mg5%
Carbohydrates 40g13%
Sugar 40g44%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 312IU6%
Calcium 120mg12%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Creme Caramel Recipe Tips

Tips for Making Caramel Sauce

  • It can’t be stressed enough that you do NOT stir your sugar mixture after it is dissolved and begins cooking. Stirring will agitate the sugar, causing it to crystallize with unmelted sugar and you’ll end up with hard candy chunks.
  • You also don’t want to have the heat too low, it needs to be medium heat. Your instinct might be to reduce the heat so you don’t burn the caramel but don’t do that! The sugar mixture needs to reach at least 320 degrees to hit the caramel stage.

Tips for Making the Custard Base

  • Strain the custard mixture after you add the eggs to ensure it’s silky smooth and there are no curdled egg bits. This is a good trick if you are new to making egg custard and still need to get the hang of tempering eggs.
  • The biggest culprit to air bubbles in your custard is overcooking. The custard should just be set around the edges and jiggly in the middle, it will finish cooking as it sets.
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How to Store

Store: It’s best to store the Creme Caramel in the ramekins before you flip them out of the cups. Wrap the ramekins tightly with plastic wrap, or transfer plated leftovers to an airtight container. They will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Freeze: Technically you can freeze Creme Caramel but it’s not recommended. It won’t have the same velvety texture once it’s been thawed and the caramel sauce will get hard.

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How to Plate Creme Caramel

Removing the Creme Caramel

  • Once your Creme Caramel has chilled for at least 6 hours and is fully set, run a butter knife against the inside of the ramekin around the custard.
  • Place a serving dish, with a lip to catch the runny sauce, top side down over the ramekin top.
  • Holding both together, flip over so the plate is right side up and the ramekin is on top.
  • Tap around the sides of the ramekin with the butter knife, and slightly jiggle it to loosen.
  • The custard should slide out fairly easily, then lift off the baking dish and allow the caramel sauce to run over the edges of the custard.

Toppings and Garnishes for Creme Caramel

  • Add fresh fruit and berries like bananas, peaches, pears, blueberries, or raspberries.
  • Buttery cookies, like Shortbread Cookies or Palmiers, go great with the custard.
  • Pipe a little bit of whipped cream on the side or top.
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Frequent Questions

What is the difference between Creme Caramel and Flan?

While Creme Caramel is very similar to Spanish Flan, the biggest difference is the milk. Flan is made with sweetened canned milk and Creme Caramel just has regular milk. Parisian Flan is much different than this custard treat, it has a compact custard base made with flour that’s baked in a flaky pie crust and sold by the slice, similar to cheesecake.

How do I get my Creme Caramel out of the ramekin?

Before you try removing your Creme Caramel, dip the bottom of the ramekin in hot water for 30 seconds to help loosen the caramel sauce. Slide a knife around the inside edge and flip the cup on a plate. Let gravity pull it down, jiggling a bit to loosen it more if it’s stuck.

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Recipe Card

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Creme Caramel

Creme Caramel is a creamy vanilla custard baked in caramel sauce. Learn how to make this classic dessert with this easy to follow recipe!
Yield 6 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 9 hours 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

Caramel:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

Creme Layer:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add sugar and water to a medium saucepan on medium-high heat and shake the pan to start dissolving the sugar.
  • Do not stir the pan or leave unattended and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  • Note: Cook until golden brown (if sugar crystals start to form around the edges, brush the edges with water).
  • Pour caramel into a thin layer in 6 ramekins.
  • Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract until well beaten and set aside.
  • Add milk and sugar to a small saucepan and whisk until sugar is dissolved.
  • Bring to barely a simmer, then remove from the heat and in as thin stream as possible add it to the eggs while whisking vigorously.
  • Note: Do not stop whisking, you don't want to cook the eggs and make sure the milk is in a very thin stream.
  • Evenly distribute the custard to the ramekins.
  • Add the ramekins to a 10×14" baking dish and fill pan with 1" of boiling water.
  • Cook for 40 minutes until the edges are set and the middle just jiggles and a small knife comes out clean from the middle.
  • Cool for 15 minutes then remove from the baking pan and let cool completely on a cooling rack.
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Run a knife around the around the rims of the ramekins, place a plate upside down over the baking dish and quickly flip over.

Nutrition

Calories: 239kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 134mg | Sodium: 79mg | Potassium: 171mg | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 312IU | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 1mg
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Creme Caramel Variations

The easiest and best way to add flavor to Creme Caramel is to infuse the milk.

Cinnamon Citrus Cream: Use whole cinnamon sticks and orange peels, or other citrus, then simply take out before continuing the recipe.

Coconut Coffee: Add instant espresso powder and replace half the milk with coconut milk for a creamy coconut custard with coffee.

White Chocolate: Reduce the sugar to ¼ cup sugar and use ¼ white chocolate melting chips. Add the chocolate chips to the milk mixture with the sugar and stir until melted.

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More Creamy Custard Based Desserts

Creme Caramel collage of plated custard with caramel sauce and preparation steps. Recipe name in red banner across center.

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. Yum. Gotta have to try this, and soon. I luuuurve crème caramel. Growing up in Switzerland, it was one of my favorite desserts. With a crown of fresh Chantilly cream. ? (The real stuff, not whipped emulsified silicone oil from a can…)