Coffee Créme Brulée

Creamy coffee custard topped with a crunchy caramelized sugar topping, Coffee Créme Brulée is a little taste of heaven. This classic French dessert is surprisingly simple to make and you don’t need a blow torch.

This is the first summer I haven’t traveled in a decade so I’ve decided I’m going to make the foods I love from the places I’ve visited and reminisce about past trips. It’s a good opportunity to share fun memories of better times.

I’ve been to Paris twice. Once with my friend Vasiliki in July, 2010 and once with Becks in December, 2013.  

Vasiliki and I had 2 glorious weeks in the summer. We stayed at a wonderful AirBnB that was very close to the subway system so it was easy to get around.

Becks was at her Dad’s house at the time but she’s never quite forgiven me for going to Paris without her. I took Becks over winter break in 2013 so we only had 8 days in Paris and another week in London. Becks an I also stayed at an AirBnB but this time we stayed closer to the city center so we spent less time on the subway.

Becks lighting candles inside Notre Dame. There are three candle stands and each holds small lit tea candles.
Becks lighting candles inside Notre Dame.

Becks and I went to many of the same places I had been previously but it was much colder so we spent more time indoors – in particular at the Louvre.

Becks is standing behind the second floor railing looking down. The shot is taken from the first floor so the Eiffel tower rises behind Becks
Becks at the Eiffel Tower

I’ll write more about Paris soon. On to this Coffee Créme Brulée. Créme Brulée has long been one of my favorite desserts. Creamy, vanilla custard topped with a thin crust of caramelized sugar is just to die for.

Square white ramekin filled with dark brown custard. The top is shiny from the caramelied sugar. There is a dollop of whipped cream and a chocolate heart in one corner. The ramekin sits on a blue and white plaid tablecloth.

The thing is, most recipes tell you to use a butane torch to caramelize the sugar and how many of us have one of those at home?

Two square ramekins filled with coffee creme brulee. Each is garnished with a dollop of whipped cream and a chocolate heart. The ramekin on the lower left is white and the ramekin on the upper right is teal blue. There are two spoons in the lower right corner.

This recipe avoids the butane torch by slightly caramelizing the sugar in a saucepan first and then finishing the job under the broiler of your oven. You just have to watch it carefully because no two broilers are the same.

I first made this in regular, tall circular ramekins. The custard turned out great but the caramelized sugar topping was too thick. If you don’t have créme brulée ramekins, you can use the regular ones but cut the sugar topping in half.

I’ve now made these twice and they were big hits with my friends. I’m sure you will enjoy them too.

Yield: 6

Coffee Créme Brulée

Square white ramekin filled with dark brown custard. The top is shiny from the caramelied sugar. There is a dollop of whipped cream and a chocolate heart in one corner. The ramekin sits on a blue and white plaid tablecloth.

Creamy coffee custard with a thin, crunchy, caramelized sugar top.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 12 hours
Total Time 13 hours


  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups whipping cream (36% fat or more)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 cup sugar for the topping
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Preheat the oven to 320° F (160° C). Lightly butter the insides of 6 shallow 5-ounce (150 ml) ramekins. Place in a large baking dish with sides deep enough to create a water bath around the ramekins.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla in a large, heatproof bowl. Set aside.
  3. Heat the cream in a medium sauce pan until scalding hot. Remove from heat. Stir in the instant coffee until it's fully dissolved. Let the mixture cool 2 minutes.
  4. Pour a small amount of the hot cream into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Contine to add small amounts and whisk thoroughly between each addition until you've added all the cream. You want to add the hot cream gradually so you don't hard boil the egg yolks.
  5. Pour the custard through a wire strainer to get rid of any small chunks. I poured it into a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup so I could then measure out the custard into the ramekins.
  6. Pour 1/2 cup custard into each of the 6 ramekins. Place the baking dish on the oven rack and pour hot water into the baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove ramekins from pan and cool on a rack. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or up to 2 days).
  7. Put 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small stainless steel saucepan (you want a light color interior so you can see the color change in the sugar). Place over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and boils. Watch the color. when the sugar turns a pale straw yellow. Pour onto a silpat or parchment paper and let cool. Break into pieces and pulse in a food processor until fine.
  8. Sprinkle the caramel sugar over the top of the custard. I put my ramekins on a cookie sheet to make it easy to put them in and out of the oven. Turn the broiler on high. Place the ramekins on the top rack and grill for a few minutes until the sugar melts. I watch carefully and remove when I can't see grains of sugar.
Looking for more French Food?

French Rice Krispy treats

Raspberry Lime Tart from My Parisian Kitchen


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