Cambridge Burnt Cream

Surely this is crème brûlée, I hear you ask – well, yes it is. Only this is the original recipe. This recipe dates from Trinity College, Cambridge’s records of 1630. The earliest recorded date of crème brûlée is 1691. I suspect that this isn’t the actual recipe of 1630 as I once read that vanilla was not introduced to Britain until the early 1700s but it’s a very welcome addition.


Serves: 10

Time: 2 hours


  • 260g caster sugar
  • 13 egg yolks
  • 2 vanilla pods & 2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 1370ml double cream
  • 75g Demerara sugar


How to make:

  • Preheat the fan oven to 160°C
  • Stand 10 large ramekins in a roasting tin, put to one side.
  • Beat the sugar and egg yolks together until thick and golden in a large mixing bowl.
  • Split the vanilla pods in half and scrape out the seeds.
  • Put the milk, cream and vanilla (pods, seeds & extract) in a large saucepan and bring to the boil very slowly. The slower you bring to the boil, the greater the time for the vanilla to infuse the cream/milk.
  • Pour the boiling cream mix through a sieve onto the eggs and sugar and mix until well combined. When making custard, never skip straining the mix otherwise yucky bits will ruin the texture.
  • Ladle into the ramekins and then pour hot water into the roasting tray so that it comes approximately half way up the sides of the ramekins.
  • Bake until set. This can take anything from 45 minutes up. You want the custard set but still with a quiver if you gently shake the roasting tin. Baked custard mixtures are done when a metal knife inserted halfway between the centre and the edge comes out clean. The very centre still may not be quite done, but the heat retained in the mixture will continue to cook it after removal from the oven.
  • Remove from the oven and let the custards cool. When cool, refrigerate until required.
  • Before serving, heat the grill to maximum heat unless you’ve got blowtorch.
  • Put a tablespoon of Demerara sugar on the top of each custard and spread evenly and then place under the grill until the sugar melts and turns golden – or use a blow torch if you have one.
  • Allow the sugar to set hard.
  • Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.