Julia Child’s Crème Caramel – Caramel Custard

by gratinee on August 5, 2009


My idea of the perfect dessert involves custard in any shape or form. That a few simple, everyday ingredients can be applied to heat to produce such a rich and silky concoction is surely one of the great feats of civilization, right up there with the invention of stiletto heels and landing a man on the moon. Add a bit of caramel into the mix and I swoon like a nineteenth century maiden in an Edith Wharton novel.

Crème caramel, also known as flan in Spanish-speaking countries and in North America, is a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top. It is similar to crème brûlée, which is custard with a hard caramel top. However, crème caramel is usually served unmolded, and because of this, it calls for more eggs and egg yolks than custards served directly from ramekins or other serving dishes.

Although crème caramel originated in Spain, it spread in popularity across Western Europe and much of the world. Packaged versions of this dessert are ubiquitous in Japan and are called “purin”, which means custard pudding. It is also common in the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as South American countries like Argentina and Uruguay, where it is usually eaten with dulce de leche.

The recipe I submit to you today is Julia Child’s crème renversée au caramel–unmolded caramel custard. It requires the additional caramel recipe on page 584 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You line your ramekins or molds with the caramel, fill it with custard, and then bake in a water bath to ensure slow and even cooking. It can seem a little complicated but crème caramel is actually quite simple to make and it never fails to impress.

Crème Renversée au Caramel

by Julia Child, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

serves 4-6 people

for the caramel:

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

Add sugar and water to a heavy stainless steel saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. When it starts to brown, swirl the saucepan around but do not stir. This will ensure that the sugar turns color evenly and will help wash any crystals off the side. When it is thick and a light, nutty brown, remove from heat and pour directly into molds; swirl each mold to coat evenly with the caramel.

for the custard:


2 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean


1) Bring the milk and vanilla bean (if you are using) to just below a simmer in a saucepan. Let the vanilla steep in the milk while you prepare the rest of the custard ingredients.

2) Gradually beat the sugar into the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl until well mixed, light, and foamy. Continue beating while pouring in the hot milk in a thin stream of droplets. If you are using vanilla extract rather than a vanilla bean, add it now. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into the caramel-lined molds.

3) To bake the molds, set them in a pan and pour enough boiling water around them to come halfway up the sides. Place in the bottom third of an oven preheated to 350F. After five minutes, turn down the heat to 325F. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the center is firm but slightly wobbly. Cooking it too long will result in a tough rather than tender custard.

4) If you would like to serve the custards warm, set the molds in cold water for about ten minutes before unmolding; otherwise chill in the refrigerator. To unmold, run a knife between the custard and edges of the mold. Place a serving dish upside down over the mold and quickly reverse the two, and remove the mold from the custard.


Photo courtesy of Microsoft

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Kayte August 5, 2009 at 8:55 am

Gorgeous…very lovely. Thanks for linking this on Twitter or I would never remember to get over here and check things out…and I would be missing out as I love your blog! Cooking with you in MTAOFC.

silvie August 5, 2009 at 10:11 am

sounds like a delightfully rich recipe – love love love creme caramel – and you dont have to torch it! I have a tip for creme caramel and brulees: before pouring the mixture into ramekins, skim the surface with a spoon to remove all air bubbles. Also never ever allow any water to drip into the mixture as it may not set. Caramel makes me swoon as well, that and fresh oysters…

gratinee August 5, 2009 at 10:32 am

That’s a great tip! I do that with the brulees but forgot with the creme caramel. And I love fresh oysters, too.

Hélène August 5, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Oh my this looks so yummy. I love crème caramel. I have to make this recipe from MTAFC. Thanks for posting it. :)

Julia @ Mélanger August 6, 2009 at 1:42 am

Thank you so much for sharing this. I have the perfect occasion to make this myself. This has now been swiftly bookmarked! :)

Fuji Mama August 6, 2009 at 3:53 am

YUM! This recipe is high up on my list of what to make next! You seriously have a knack for food photography–you amaze me!

gastroanthropologist August 10, 2009 at 10:41 am

My husband is about to walk in the door from work so I gotta comment quick. His absolute favorite is creme caramel (we just had some in croatia!). He is always asking for custardy desserts and I’m afraid if he sees this gorgeous creme caramel on the computer screen he’s going to demand I make some tonight! I’ll have to bookmark it for when I’m not swamped with work (though I make time to blog surf…). Looks really delicious.

gratinee August 10, 2009 at 11:03 am

Traveling again, A?! Croatia must have been beautiful. Lucky you!

guglielmo December 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm

My gorgeous Turkish wife, just made us this in Haiti! It looks as delicious as she!

Dot November 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

just for you

Ben Dee December 1, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Nice blog :-)

I followed the recipe that you posted but the custard did not turn out to be very creamy and rich at all ;-(

After doing a lot of research I found out that you need to add FULL CREAM milk. Not just an ordinary standard one.

Darina December 3, 2010 at 10:16 am

Thank you for your comments. Yes, you need heavy cream or whipping cream otherwise you end up with more of a flan/milky custard. It makes a big difference.

Dmitriy 27 RF June 1, 2011 at 3:54 am

С вашего позволения я повзаимствую ваш рецем в личных целях, очень понравилось описание его, но больше всего был удивлён наличием пузырьков ) не думал что это возможно без химии… )

RANADEV DATTA July 26, 2012 at 12:33 am

What gives a better caramel custard — full-cream, toned or double toned milk?
While baking the mold/molds, with boiling water around, is it necessary to cover the whole thing with aluminium foil to trap the steam?

Darina July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm

The best if full cream but I have also be known to mix it with whole milk. If you use milk it will be like creme caramel–not as rick and silky but more spongy. I’m going to soon post my recipe for chocolate pots, which is the same process, and I don’t cover those. Once you take them out of the oven, let them sit for awhile and then put them in the fridge. Hope that helps. Thanks for the question.

Mike November 7, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Hey there!
I’ve tried making creme caramel so many times now: adjusted the recipes from milk to cream, to both.. played with oven temperatues, using whole eggs and whole eggs with extra yolk, covering the bain marie loosely with foil.. And I still cannot get the right consistency of custard I want. And the smell of egg is incredibly strong. I,ve reached success with making creme brulee, but with creme caramel and pot de creme , since both call for egg whites, I struggle to achieve my desired results. What am I doing wrong????

Darina November 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I’m not sure, Mike. Have you followed the message exactly? Definitely use milk as cream is best left for creme brulee–they require very different textures. A lot of people don’t like creme caramel becaus eof the texture and “egginess”. Why not make a crme brulee and then pour caramel on top of the ramekin and allow it to harden, rather than dusting it with sugar and torching it? Maybe the consistency you want is a creme brulee type of consistency. I usually use very little egg white in my creme brulee recipe–which I developed through trial and error and can be found on the blog. Not here is that much to it. It’s quite simple, really.

Zachary Burk January 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I made this today and it was gorgeous, delicious and totally amazing! I did a sauce to go with that I would like to share:
1 orange, chopped into cubes
1 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water

I put it all in a sauce pan, brought it to a boil, and lowered to a simmer, stirring off and on until it started to caramelize just a bit, turning a golden color and had a thicker maple-syrup-consistency. Then I strained it and poured it onto the finished, unmolded Creme caramel. It was soooo good!
I was the only white kid in a mexican neighborhood when I was a kid and this took me back to our neighbor’s kitchen when she would make flan once a year for her own birthday because she hated cake. She didn’t speak english but would look down at me and say, “Que Rico Güerito.” Thanks for sharing; made me feel like a kid.

Darina January 21, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Thank you for sharing the recipe for the sauce. I’ll have to give it a try. I live creme caramel, creme brulee, flan, all manner of custard. Nom nom!

Nina June 21, 2013 at 7:22 am

Hi. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. But what if i can’t find any heavy cream, is it ok if i would to replaced it with Sweetened Whipped Light Cream?
i have to make for 100 people this sunday and urgently need your kind advice..
Thank you again.

Darina June 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Can you just find regular whipping cream? That’s what I usually use. Half and half would also work. I’ve even tried regular homo milk but found the texture lighter and less custardy but still quite good. I don’t know about using something sweetened because it probably high fructose corn syrup in it and might throw the recipe off. Hope that helps!

Hildegard Parker November 8, 2014 at 3:43 pm

have been making this desert since I started to cook with Julia Child 1965 – it is foolproof and tastes better than any restaurant made desert.

Julie May 2, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Hi !

In Julia’s episode Caramel dessert, she told 5 eggs and 4 egg yolks
I put the custard on a oven proof glass mole.
After 40 minutes, wasnt done at all…
How long for that kind of moles ?

Thank you !!

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