Crème Brûlée

James Beard

Author and Educator

“Once called the ‘Queen of British desserts,’ crème brûlée was commonly served at Cambridge University, where it was baked in a dish expressly made for it by the Copeland-Spode Company. Although the dessert sounds simple, there are a couple of tricky points about the preparation, so I’m going to give you my version.”

–James Beard


  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Pinch of mace


Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Heat heavy cream, the heaviest you can get, to the boiling point. Lightly beat egg yolks with sugar and a pinch of salt, and pour the hot cream over them, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or wire whisk until well blended. Add vanilla or mace or any other flavoring you desire. Strain the custard into a 1 1/2–quart heatproof baking dish, place the dish in a pan of warm water, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard is completely set but not overcooked. Do not let the water in the pan boil. Remove from the oven, cool, and then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

About 1 1/2 to 2 hours before serving, sprinkle the top evenly with fine granulated sugar to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Put under the broiler (or use a salamander, if you have one) until the sugar is melted and bubbly, watching carefully to see it does not scorch and burn. Remove, cool, and chill again until serving time. You’ll have a hard, highly glazed crust on the top of an unctuous, voluptuous custard.


6 servings