The Best Coffee Crème Brûlée | 6 Ingredients
This coffee crème brûlée is a total dream. With intense coffee flavor and a pop of vanilla bean, it’s an easy, make-ahead dessert for a crowd. With just six ingredients, this recipe is a lovely way to end a dinner party!
Now that BBQ weather is over and dinner party season is upon us, I’m officially transitioning into *cozy mode*.
I hope you’re ready for all the roasts, stews, spices, and warm flavors cause I’m coming in hot starting with this crème brûlée. If you’ve tried my orange cardamom crème brûlée, you may know that it’s my favorite dessert of all time. And of course, I’m always here for a good coffee dessert like chewy coffee cookies or cardamom cake with coffee buttercream!
This recipe also combines two of my favorite dinner party facets: elegant dessert and after-dinner coffee. It’s dreamy, so delicious, and lovely for all the upcoming parties and holidays. Let’s make it!
Details on this recipe
Crème brûlée is probably my favorite dessert I learned how to make when I was a student in pastry school. It’s a good one to have in your back pocket for when you need something that’s easy but makes people think you spent all day in the kitchen.
- This crème brûlée is elegant but so simple to make.
- It’s creamy, smooth, and has a perfectly caramelized lid.
- The espresso powder adds a ton of coffee flavor.
- It’s great for a dinner party, holidays, or date night at home.
What is crème brûlée?
Crème brûlée is a French dessert made up of thick custard with a crisp, caramelized shell. Usually it’s made with vanilla bean, but you can also try it with other flavors! It’s a rich, creamy dessert that I could honestly eat every single day, it’s ridiculously good.
The ingredient list
- Heavy whipping cream – the high fat in the cream will add richness and give the crème brûlée a creamy texture.
- Egg yolks – these are key to perfect custard! Not only do they emulsify the custard, but the protein in the yolks also thickens the cream. (P.S. don’t worry if one of the yolks breaks. It happens. 🤪)
- Sugar – this will add sweetness to the custard – just a bit! Crème brûlée shouldn’t be too sweet.
- Vanilla bean paste – for that classic note of vanilla! The paste is more intense than extract but more convenient and affordable than actual beans. You can buy it online or in specialty food shops.
- Espresso powder – this will add lots of coffee flavor without adding too much liquid to the custard. You can find it either in the coffee aisle or baking aisle of the grocery store!
- Superfine sugar – using superfine sugar (instead of granulated) will give us an evenly caramelized top. The thicker the sugar granules, the more spotty the caramelization will be.
- Vanilla bean paste – if you don’t have paste, you can use vanilla extract instead. Just double the amount!
- Espresso powder – instant coffee will also work in this recipe.
- Superfine sugar – feel free to use regular granulated sugar if you want to skip an extra ingredient. Granulated will take longer to caramelize but still works!
For the best flavor, use a high-quality espresso powder or instant coffee. I buy some from a local coffee shop but you can also find good brands online or even in some well-stocked grocery stores.
How to make this recipe
Make the custard
- Start by preheating the oven to 300°F and bringing the heavy cream to a simmer for 1 minute. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
- Then, add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 3-4 minutes.
- Temper the eggs with about 1/2 cup of hot cream to make sure the eggs don’t scramble!
- Then, whisk in the rest of the cream, just until the mixture is combined.
- Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
- Add the vanilla bean paste and espresso powder to the custard. Don’t worry if there are a few grains of powder left, they’ll dissolve!
- Divide the custard between four ramekins. Then, place the ramekins on a sheet pan.
- Pour the boiling water on the pan around the ramekins. Then, bake the crème brûlée until it’s set. Cool the custards completely.
It’s very important that you don’t over-cook the espresso crème brûlée! It’s the difference between rich, smooth custard and overly-thick, rubbery custard. The crème brûlée is done when it’s set but still a bit jiggly.
Caramelize the top
- Once the custard is set, sprinkle each custard with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of superfine sugar.
- Then, tap the ramekin to evenly spread it out.
- Use a cooking torch to caramelize the sugar. Enjoy!
Water bath hack
I get it. Transferring a sheet pan full of boiling water is scary. 😬 To use the water bath safely, place the sheet pan of crème brûlée on the center rack of the oven. Then, carefully pour the boiling water in the pan until it comes halfway up the ramekins.
To remove the crème brûlée, use a large spatula to carefully transfer the ramekins from the sheet pan to a cooling rack. Then, you can easily remove the sheet pan of hot water from the oven.
This crème brûlée is my favorite dessert for date night, an elegant dinner party, or a special celebration. While you can eat it as-is, you can also add some toppings to make it even more special!
- Whipped cream – add a dollop of whipped cream after the caramelized sugar has cooled a bit.
- Chocolate shavings – dark, milk, or white chocolate will all work!
- Nuts – try hazelnuts, pistachios, or toasted almonds.
- Berries – top the crème brûlée with strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.
To make sure the sugar topping stays nice and crackly, caramelize it right before serving. You don’t want to refrigerate the crème brûlée after you’ve caramelized the sugar, because it will melt in the fridge!
Storing & make-ahead
Note: If you want to store leftover crème brûlée, you’ll want to refrigerate it without the sugar topping. Otherwise, the sugar will melt in the fridge. I recommend only caramelizing the crème brûlées you’re eating immediately.
To store any leftovers, wrap the ramekins in beeswax or plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Right before serving, top the crème brûlées with sugar and torch until they’re golden-brown.
Since the custard needs to be refrigerated, it’s the perfect make-ahead dessert! You can bake the crème brûlées and refrigerate them up to 3 days in advance. Then, when you’re ready to serve, add the sugar, caramelize it, and you’re good to go!
Crème brûlée tips
- To keep the eggs from scrambling, make sure you temper them! Just slowly add about 1/2 cup of hot cream to the eggs while whisking constantly.
- Don’t skip on straining the custard! No matter how hard you try, sometimes the eggs will scramble just a little. Straining just double ensures that the custard is uber smooth.
- The water bath is 100% necessary. Some recipes will tell you that it’s not, but if you want super creamy, evenly-baked crème brûlée, I highly recommend the water bath!
- This recipe is super easy to double for a crowd. You may just need to bake the crème brûlée in batches.
- The custard may have little bubbles in it. It’s totally not a big deal. But if you don’t want them, you can always spoon them off before baking or tap the ramekins to pop them. Also, make sure not to over-mix the custard which will add more bubbles!
- Make sure to chill the espresso crème brûlée for long enough. They need to chill for at least 2 hours for the right texture.
What is the difference between crème brûlée and crème caramel?
Crème brûlée and crème caramel are two completely different desserts. Both of them are custard-based desserts, but crème brûlée has a thick, rich custard with a hard, crackly sugar topping. Crème caramel, on the other hand, is made with whole eggs and a mixture of milk and cream. This makes for a lighter custard. Also, crème caramel has caramel sauce rather than a hard caramelized topping.
Is crème brûlée custard?
Yep! Crème brûlée is a baked custard made with heavy whipping cream and egg yolks.
Can I use ground coffee instead of espresso powder?
I don’t recommend using ground coffee in this recipe. Even if you strain it, you will still end up with little coffee grounds in the custard. Since the custard is supposed to be as smooth as possible, it’s best to use espresso powder or instant coffee which will dissolve completely!
Is crème brûlée gluten free?
Yes! Crème brûlée doesn’t have flour or any other products that contain gluten.
How can I make this recipe without a torch?
Honestly, I would recommend that you buy a cooking torch if possible! It’s truly the best way to caramelize crème brûlée and you can use it for other recipes too. If you don’t have a torch, you can broil the sugar in the oven. Just place an oven rack as close to the top of your oven as possible. Broil the sugar for about 5-10 minutes, occasionally rotating the pan, to evenly caramelize the sugar. Be careful not to overcook the crème brûlées or it will affect the texture of the custard.
Can I freeze crème brûlée?
Unfortunately, no. Freezing crème brûlée will melt the sugar and ruin the smooth, creamy texture. Crème brûlée tastes best when it’s served right away!
More coffee desserts you’ll love
If you make this recipe, I would love it if you left a star rating and review! I read every single comment and love hearing what you think about my recipes. Thank you for supporting Sunday Table!
The Best Coffee Crème Brûlée | 6 Ingredients
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream (473 milliliters)
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar (67 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons instant espresso powder (9 grams)
- 9 Tablespoons superfine sugar (108 grams)
- 6 shallow ramekins
- Cooking torch (optional)
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 300°F. Start boiling a large kettle (or pot) of water.
- Add the heavy whipping cream to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Gently simmer the cream for 1 minute and then remove it from the heat. Set aside.
- Next, whisk egg yolks and granulated sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.
- While whisking vigorously, drizzle about a 1/2 cup of the hot cream into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Once tempered, slowly whisk in the remaining cream, just until the custard is combined.
- Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve and into a bowl or liquid measuring cup to remove any lumps.
- Gently stir in the vanilla bean paste (or extract) and instant espresso powder until it's dissolved.
- Evenly divide the custard between six ramekins. Place the ramekins on a deep baking sheet. Place the pan on the center rack of the pre-heated oven and immediately pour the boiling water on the baking sheet around the ramekins to create a water bath. Avoid pouring any water in the actual crème brûlée! The water should come about halfway up the ramekins.
- Bake, checking for doneness around 25-30 minutes. If it's not done, continue baking it in 3-5 minute increments until it's thoroughly cooked. The crème brûlée is done when it's set but still a bit jiggly. Do not let the custard boil or brown!
- When they are finished baking, remove the crème brûlées from the oven by sliding a large spatula under each ramekin. Place the ramekins on a wire rack and let them cool at room-temperature for about 1 hour. Then, cover the ramekins with beeswax wrap or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 more hour (or up to 3 days) to chill.
- Right before serving, sprinkle each custard with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the superfine sugar. Using a torch, caramelize the sugar until it's evenly melted and caramelized. Serve immediately and enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
Song of the day – Sometimes by Goth Babe