This recipe for Crème Caramel features a steamed, soft, wobbly and slightly sweet milky egg custard with a thin layer of caramel sauce.
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What is crème caramel?
Originating from the Roman Empire, crème caramel is also known as flan, caramel pudding, or caramel custard.
In French, "crème" means "custard."
It's a soft egg custard with a glossy layer of caramel on top with a ratio of 1 egg to 2 parts milk and ½ part sugar.
Typically, the caramel is prepared first and poured into a ramekin or serving vessel and allowed to set.
Then the egg custard is poured over the caramel and baked until just set.
The final dessert is inverted onto a dish with the caramel layer on top.
What does it taste like?
The texture of the creme caramel is soft and melts in your mouth (similar to egg custard pudding, used in bubble tea), with a strong flavor of caramel and vanilla.
What's the difference between crème caramel and crème brûlée?
Crème brûlée (or burnt cream) is a custard dessert with a layer of hardened caramelized sugar on the surface.
Why you'll love this recipe
Crème caramel is a sweet dessert, by its nature. This recipe is not too overly sweet.
Traditionally baked in the oven in a water bath, I use a different method of setting the custard.
Steaming the crème caramel yields a soft and jiggly egg custard, without having to use a hot water bath.
This crème caramel recipe uses whole eggs rather than just egg yolks, which is great especially if you don't want any leftover egg whites.
It uses minimal ingredients.
Equipment you'll need
- 6 small ramekins or bowls: about ½ cup size
- steamer or large pot/wok: with a steaming rack
Ingredients you'll need
For the caramel:
- granulated sugar
For the custard:
- 3 whole eggs: approximately 160g in total weight
- granulated sugar
- whole milk
- heavy cream: adds a creamy texture to the custard
- vanilla extract or vanilla bean/vanilla paste: use a high quality vanilla for the best flavour
How to steam crème caramel
Make the caramel
Combine 50g sugar and 22ml water in a small pan.
Cook over high heat until the syrup reaches an amber colour.
Remove from head and immediately add 15ml (1 Tbsp) water to the caramel, stirring to dissolve.
Pour caramel syrup into the molds immediately and set aside to cool.
Make the custard
Whisk together eggs and sugar in a heat-safe bowl.
In a small saucepan or pot, combine whole milk and heavy cream, and heat until almost boiling.
Remove from heat.
While whisking the egg mixture, gradually pour in the hot milk mixture.
Stir in vanilla extract.
Assemble & steam
Strain the custard mixture through a sieve into the prepared caramel cups/ramekins.
Cover cups with aluminum foil and place onto a steaming rack with boiling water.
Steam custard on medium low heat for 12-14 minutes, or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
Allow custard to cool completely.
Lightly run a sharp knife around the edges/sides of the ramekin/bowl.
Hold the custard bowl with a serving dish on top and carefully invert the creme caramel onto the dish.
How to serve
Serve Creme Caramel chilled.
Add fruit, vanilla ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream.
How to store
Once cool, wrap each individual creme caramel up with plastic wrap.
Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
It can be kept in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Do not freeze creme caramel -- the texture will not be optimal.
You can also bake the creme caramel:
Preheat oven to 300F.
Pour boiling water into a deep baking pan up to half of the height of the cup/ramekin.
Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the custard comes out clean.
Cool custard to room temperature and chill in the fridge overnight.
Once cool, lightly run a knife around the flan and carefully invert onto a serving plate to serve.
Expert tips & FAQs
The yield may depend on the size of your ramekins.
Prefer more caramel syrup?
Double the caramel portion of the recipe.
How to prevent caramel from crystallizing
Use a clean saucepan.
Don't stir the sugar syrup.
Use a wet pastry brush to dab the sides of the pan to moisten the syrup.
Don't over-steam the custard -- it may result in a rubbery texture.
Allow the caramel to set fully before pouring in the egg custard.
Let the custard cool completely before inverting.
Is flan and crème caramel the same?
It really depends where you are.
Flan is known as crème caramel in Spanish-speaking regions.
In the United Kingdom, flan is known as an open-faced tart.
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Let me know if you try out this recipe -- tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below!
Crème Caramel (Steamed)
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 50 g granulated sugar
- 37 ml water divided
- 3 whole eggs appx 160g
- 60 g granulated sugar
- 270 ml whole milk
- 30 ml heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For key visual process photos, refer to the body of the blog post.
Make the caramel:
- Combine 50g sugar and 22ml water in a small pan.
- Cook over high heat until the syrup reaches an amber colour.
- Remove from head and immediately add 15ml (1 Tbsp) water to the caramel, stirring to dissolve.
- Pour caramel syrup into the molds immediately and set aside to cool.
Make the custard:
- Whisk together eggs and sugar in a heat-safe bowl.
- In a small saucepan or pot, combine whole milk and heavy cream, and heat until almost boiling.
- Remove from heat.
- While whisking the egg mixture, gradually pour in the hot milk mixture.
- Stir in vanilla extract.
Assemble & steam:
- Strain the custard mixture through a sieve into the prepared caramel cups/ramekins.
- Cover cups with aluminum foil and place onto a steaming rack with boiling water.
- Steam custard on medium low heat for 12-14 minutes, or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
- Allow custard to cool completely.
- Lightly run a knife around the edges of the ramekin/bowl.
- Hold the custard bowl with a serving dish on top and carefully invert the creme caramel onto the dish.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.