Crème brûlée (11px /ˌkrɛm brˈl/; French pronunciation: [kʁɛm bʁy.le]),[1] also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served cold.

The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but is also sometimes flavored with lemon or orange (zest), rosemary, chocolate, coffee, liqueurs, green tea, pistachio, coconut, or other fruit.


The exact origins are uncertain.

The earliest known reference of creme brulee as we know it today appears in François Massialot's 1691 cookbook,[2] and the French name was used in the English translation of this book, but the 1731 edition of Massialot's Cuisinier roial et bourgeois changed the name of the same recipe from "crème brûlée" to "crème anglaise".[3] In the early eighteenth century, the dessert was called "burnt cream" in English.[4]

In Britain, 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",[5] The story goes that the recipe was from an Aberdeenshire country house and was offered by an undergraduate to the college cook, who turned it down. However, when the student became a Fellow, he managed to convince the cook.[6]

Crema catalana

File:Cremacatalana no header.jpg

In Catalan language; Crema catalana ('Catalan cream'), crema cremada ('Burnt cream') or crema de Sant Josep, is a Catalan dish similar to crème brûlée. It is traditionally served on Saint Joseph's Day (March the 19th) although nowadays it is consumed at all times of year. The custard is flavored with lemon or orange zest, and cinnamon. The sugar in crema catalana is traditionally caramelized under an iron broiler or with a specially made iron, not with a flame.


Creme brulee

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 broiler/salamander or with a blow torch.

See also


  1. L'Orthographie 1990)
  2. French 1691 recipe with historical notes
  3. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (Simon and Schuster) 2004:97; McGee notes "An English model for 'English cream' hasn't yet been unearthed."
  4. The Oxford English Dictionary has a 1723 quotation.
  5. Florence White, quoted in Davidson, s.v. crème brûlée;
  6. The story of its introduction to Trinity was published in 1908 in the Ocklye Cookery Book, as reported by Elizabeth David, Is There a Nutmeg in the House?: Essays on Practical Cooking with More Than 150 Recipes, p. 246


External links

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