Crème brûlée

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Crème brûlée
2014 0531 Crème brûlée Doi Mae Salong.jpg
Alternative names Burnt cream, crema catalana, Trinity cream, Cambridge Burnt Cream
Course Dessert
Place of origin France
Serving temperature Room temperature
Main ingredients Custard, caramel
Cookbook: Crème brûlée  Media: Crème brûlée
Crème brûlée being prepared with a small torch

Crème brûlée (/ˌkrɛm brˈl/; French pronunciation: ​[kʁɛm bʁy.le]), also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream[1] is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served at room temperature. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but can have a variety of other flavorings.


The earliest known reference to crème brûlée in print appears in François Massialot's 1691 cookbook Cuisinier royal et bourgeois.[2][3] The name "burnt cream" was used in the 1702 English translation.[4] Confusingly, in 1740 Massailot referred to a similar recipe as crême à l'Angloise, 'English cream'. The dish then vanished from French cookbooks until the 1980s.[2] A version of crème brûlée (known locally as "Trinity Cream" or "Cambridge burnt cream") was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1879 with the college arms "impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron".[1]

Crème brûlée was not very common in French and English cookbooks of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,[5] but it became extremely popular in the 1980s, "a symbol of that decade's self-indulgence and the darling of the restaurant boom",[6][7] probably popularized by Sirio Maccioni at his New York restaurant "Le Cirque", who claimed that he made it "the most famous and by far the most popular dessert in restaurants from Paris to Peoria".[5][8]

Crema catalana[edit]

In Catalan cuisine, crema catalana ("Catalan cream") or crema cremada ("Burnt cream"), is a dish similar to crème brûlée, although the sugar (caramelized with a specially made iron, rather than a flame) is a recent innovation.[6] Traditionally known as crema de Sant Josep, it was originally served on Saint Joseph's Day although nowadays it is consumed at all times of the year. The custard is flavored with lemon or orange zest, and cinnamon.[7]


Crème brûlée flambée

Crème brûlée is usually served in individual ramekins. Discs of caramel may be prepared separately and put on top just before serving, or the caramel may be formed directly on top of the custard, immediately before serving. To do this, sugar is sprinkled onto the custard, then caramelized under a salamander broiler or with a butane torch.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Alan Davidson (21 August 2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. OUP Oxford. pp. 230–. ISBN 978-0-19-104072-6. 
  2. ^ a b The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. 1 April 2015. pp. 383–. ISBN 978-0-19-931362-4. 
  3. ^ Jane Grigson (1 January 1985). Jane Grigson's British Cookery. Atheneum. 
  4. ^ Harold McGee (20 March 2007). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Simon and Schuster. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-4165-5637-4. 
  5. ^ a b Darra Goldstein, ed., The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, 2015, ISBN 0199313393, s.v. 'Crème brûlée'
  6. ^ a b Colman Andrews (3 December 2005). Catalan Cuisine, Revised Edition: Vivid Flavors From Spain's Mediterranean Coast. Harvard Common Press. pp. 247–. ISBN 978-1-55832-329-2. 
  7. ^ a b Richard Sax (9 November 2010). Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 149–. ISBN 0-547-50480-2. 
  8. ^ Sirio Maccioni, Peter Elliot, Sirio: The Story of my Life and Le Cirque, 2004, ISBN 0471204560, p. 216
  9. ^ Cloake, Felicity (19 September 2012). "How to cook perfect creme brulee". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2016. 


  • "Origin of Crème Brûlée", Petits Propos Culinaires 31:61 (March 1989).

External links[edit]