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Spanish Crema Catalana Dessert Custard

20 minutes. Cook
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Nestled within the vibrant tapestry of Spanish cuisine is the delectable Crema Catalana, often hailed as Spain’s answer to France’s crème brûlée. This iconic dessert is a symphony of silky custard and a crackling sugar crust, delighting palates for centuries. Rooted in Catalonia, it’s a testament to Spain’s rich culinary heritage. In this culinary journey, we’ll dive deep into the creation of this tantalizing Spanish Crema Catalana dessert custard.

Historical Context

To truly appreciate the Crema Catalana, we must delve into its history. Originating in the Catalonia region of Spain, this luscious custard first appeared in cookbooks dating back to the 18th century. Early recipes were rather simple, involving ingredients like milk, sugar, egg yolks, and a touch of cinnamon. Over time, this humble dessert evolved, gaining complexity and nuance.


Step 1: Infusing the Milk

Begin by infusing the milk with the aromatic flavors of citrus and cinnamon. In a medium-sized saucepan, pour in the 2 cups of whole milk. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon zest, and orange zest. Heat the milk gently over medium-low heat, bringing it to a scalding point. Watch closely and remove it from heat just before it begins to boil. This will take around 5-7 minutes.

Step 2: Whisking the Yolks

In a separate bowl, whisk together the 6 large egg yolks and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar until the mixture turns pale and slightly thickens. This should take about 3-4 minutes.

Step 3: Creating the Custard Base

Now, it’s time to combine the infused milk with the egg yolk mixture. Slowly pour the hot milk into the yolks while continuously whisking. This prevents the eggs from curdling. Once combined, return the mixture to the saucepan.

Step 4: Thickening the Custard

Place the saucepan back on the stove over medium heat. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a small amount of cold milk and add it to the custard mixture. Stir continuously until the custard thickens, which usually takes about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.

Step 5: Infusing Vanilla

Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the custard, giving it a fragrant depth that complements the citrus and cinnamon notes. Stir well.

Step 6: Straining the Custard

To ensure a smooth texture, strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. This will remove any zest or coagulated bits. Allow it to cool slightly.

Step 7: Filling the Ramekins

Pour the custard into individual heatproof ramekins or traditional clay pots. This recipe typically yields 4-6 servings, depending on the size of your containers.

Cooking and Serving

Step 8: Creating the Sugar Crust

Before serving, sprinkle a generous layer of granulated sugar evenly over the top of each custard-filled ramekin. To achieve that signature caramelized crust, use a kitchen torch to carefully melt and brown the sugar. Keep the flame moving to ensure even caramelization.

Step 9: Savoring the Crema Catalana

Once the sugar crust has hardened, your Crema Catalana is ready to be enjoyed. The contrast between the crispy, caramelized top and the creamy custard beneath is simply divine. Traditionally, it’s served immediately to relish the textural contrast at its best.

Crema Catalana is a Spanish dessert that embodies centuries of culinary tradition. It’s a testament to the artistry of Spanish cuisine, combining simplicity with sophistication. Each spoonful of this creamy custard, beneath the crackling caramelized sugar, transports you to the heart of Catalonia. Whether enjoyed as a sweet ending to a Spanish feast or a stand-alone indulgence, Crema Catalana is a culinary masterpiece that deserves a place in your repertoire. So, fire up your kitchen torch and embark on a journey through Spain’s culinary history with this delightful dessert.

prep time
35 minutes.
cooking time
20 minutes.
total time
35 minutes.


  • A medium-sized saucepan

  • A whisk

  • A fine-mesh sieve

  • Heatproof ramekins or clay pots for serving

  • A kitchen torch for caramelizing the sugar crust


  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 6 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 strip of lemon zest

  • 1 strip of orange zest

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Infuse milk with flavors.
Whisk yolks and sugar.
Combine milk and yolks.
Create sugar crust, serve.
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