Silky smooth vanilla custard is topped with real caramel sauce in this recipe for Classic Crème Caramel. You’ll love the indulgent flavor and creamy texture of this timeless recipe!
Perfect Mini Custard Cups with Caramel Sauce
Have you ever eaten crème caramel? It’s one of my all-time favorite desserts. The simple egg custard base is cool and silky, cooked in a ramekin along with a homemade caramel topping. The ramekin size makes each crème caramel a cute, individually portioned dessert. Although they’re so tasty, you may find yourself reaching for another one!
Crème caramel is a traditional dessert to serve during the holidays, and it’s easy to see why! The comforting, classic flavors are a sure winner, and you can prepare crème caramel days in advance. However, they’re really a great dessert recipe to have in your pocket all year round! The gentle flavor of creamy egg custard topped with homemade caramel sauce is perfect for all occasions—or for a sweet treat, just because.
Is Crème Caramel the Same as Flan?
Yes, and no! Technically, “flan” is a more flexible term, and some flan recipes include savory custard instead of sweet, or even a pastry base of some kind. But in general, flan and crème caramel are synonymous, especially in the United States and South America.
What You’ll Need
This recipe is made with the simplest of ingredients: milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla. To make the recipe as flavorful as possible, aim high in quality for each item: grass-fed milk, free-range eggs, and pure vanilla extract all make a difference!
For the Caramel Topping
- Sugar: Caramel is made by melting sugar down and letting it brown, and this caramel sauce starts out the same way.
- Water: To keep the caramel at a liquid consistency, a couple of tablespoons of water are added.
For the Custard
- Milk: You can use whole milk, or evaporated milk for extra richness.
- Sugar: The custard should be sweetened with a little bit of sugar.
- Vanilla: For the best flavor, use pure vanilla extract.
- Salt: Just a pinch.
- Eggs: A combination of whole eggs and egg yolks gives the custard the perfect consistency.
How to Make Crème Caramel
In order to get a really smooth, silky crème caramel, you have to use a very gentle cooking process. That means placing the ramekins in a Bain Marie, or hot water bath. Here’s the whole process broken down step by step:
- Prep the Oven and Ramekins. First, preheat the oven to 300°F. Place 6 ramekins in a 9×13 inch baking dish, and set aside. I don’t grease my ramekins for this recipe.
- Make the Caramel Sauce. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan, and heat over medium heat for several minutes. Stir the mixture once. Continue to cook without stirring, until the sugar and water turn a rich, brown caramel color. This will take 10 – 12 minutes. Pour the caramel sauce into the ramekins, and allow it to cool while you make the custard.
- Make the Custard. Pour the milk into another saucepan over medium heat. Stir the often, to prevent it from scorching while it heats. Once it reaches a simmer, take it off of the heat. Stir the sugar, vanilla, and salt into the milk, whisking until dissolved. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks together, and then little by little whisk the egg mixture into the milk mixture. This is the custard base of the crème caramel.
- Assemble and Bake. When the custard and caramel are ready to bake, you’ll need to divide the custard mixture evenly among the ramekins. Place the baking pan with the ramekins inside into the oven, and carefully pour hot water into the pan around the ramekins, for the water bath. You want the water to rise about ¾ the way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the crème caramels for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean.
- Chill. Once the crème caramels are done, remove the baking pan from the oven, and take the ramekins out of the pan. Let them cool completely to room temperature, and then chill in the refrigerator for several hours to set.
- Enjoy! When you are ready to serve, take the crème caramels out of the refrigerator. Run a knife around the inside of each one to release the custard from the ramekin, and then invert the custard onto a small plate. Serve immediately!
Tips for Success
So that’s it! A simple, classic dessert that takes ordinary ingredients and elevates them into something really special. If you would like to know more, have a look at these helpful tips!
- Keep It Gentle: Don’t be tempted to cook crème caramel at a higher temperature! The custard needs a gentle cooking temperature in order to turn out smooth. A high temp could cause the eggs to seem “scrambled.”
- Kitchen Towel Hack: Line the baking pan with a kitchen towel to keep it from heating the bottom of the ramekins too much, and to keep them from sliding around.
- Strain the Custard: If adding the eggs to the hot milk creates “curds” of scrambled egg, you can still achieve a silky result by straining the custard mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Easy!
How to Store Extras
Leftover (or extra) crème caramel should be stored in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap or foil. It will keep for up to one week.
Can I Make This in Advance?
Yes! Crème caramel is a popular dessert to make ahead, because you can chill the ramekins (covered with plastic wrap or foil) for up to a week.
However, I recommend using them within the first three or four days. Either way, when you’re ready to serve, just use a knife to free the sides of the custard from the ramekin, and then invert and enjoy!
Classic Creme Caramel
For the Caramel Sauce:
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
For the Custard
- 2 ½ cups whole milk, or evaporated milk
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 3 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place 6 ramekins in a 9×13 inch baking dish, and set aside.
- Make the caramel sauce by placing the sugar and water in a small saucepan, heating over medium heat for several minutes. Stir the mixture, and continue to cook until it turns a rich, brown caramel color (this will take 10 – 12 minutes).
- Pour the caramel sauce into the ramekins, dividing as evenly as possible. Be careful, as the sauce will be very hot. Allow it to cool.
- While the caramel sauce is cooling, place the milk in another saucepan over medium heat. Stir often to prevent scorching, as the milk heats. Once it reaches a simmer, remove the milk from the heat.
- Stir the sugar, vanilla, and salt into the milk, whisking until dissolved.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks together until well-blended. Then whisk the egg mixture into the milk mixture, working a little bit at a time, to keep the eggs from scrambling. This is the custard base of the creme caramel.
- Pour the custard mixture into the ramekins, dividing as evenly as possible.
- Transfer the baking pan with the ramekins inside to the oven. Carefully pour hot water into the pan around the ramekins, for the water bath. You want the water to rise about ¾ the way up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean.
- Remove the baking pan from the oven, and take the custards out of the pan. Let them cool completely to room temperature, and then chill in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 hours, until set.
- When ready to serve, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator. Run a knife around the inside of the ramekin, and then invert the custard onto a small plate. Serve immediately, with fresh fruit, if desired.
More Classic Dessert Recipes
- Easy Banana Pudding
- Arroz con Leche
- Vanilla Bean Pound Cake
- Classic Gingerbread Recipe
- Best Chocolate Cake Recipe
- Dutch Apple Pie
- Classic Peach Crisp
- Crockpot Cherry Cobbler
- Old Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie
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