Crema Catalana (Catalan Custard)

Gluten Free · Vegetarian

22 Dec · Written by Raquel Jones


Introducing "Crema Catalana," a delectable Spanish dessert with a rich and storied history. This creamy custard delight hails from Catalonia, Spain, and is celebrated on St. Joseph's Day, March 19th.

At its heart, Crema Catalana features a luscious custard base crafted from a blend of milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks. What sets it apart are the subtle yet distinctive flavours of citrus zest, often from lemon or orange, and a hint of warming cinnamon.

But the beauty of this dish lies not only in its traditional form but also in its adaptability. It embraces various flavour variations, from the aromatic notes of coffee and chocolate to the timeless appeal of vanilla.

Topped with a perfectly caramelized sugar crust, Crema Catalana offers a contrast of textures – the creamy custard beneath and the satisfying crackle of sweet, golden caramel above.

Intriguingly similar, yet wonderfully distinct from its French counterpart, Crème Brûlée, Crema Catalana is a testament to the culinary diversity and creativity found within the world of desserts. Whether you savour its classic rendition or explore its flavourful twists, this dessert promises a delightful journey for your taste buds.

Bon Profit! Raquel x

Crema Catalana (Catalan Custard)

Serves: 4-6 people, depending on the size of your ramekins


  • 500 mL milk
  • 1 orange, grate zest and then peel and slice orange segments (keep filleted segments aside, discard remaining orange pulp)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or a shake of cinnamon from a jar)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 4 egg yolks (from medium to large eggs, separate the whites)
  • 150 g sugar (50 g will be used to create the burnt topping after custard cream has set)


  1. Whisk 100 g of the sugar and the egg yolks in a saucepan until white and creamy.
  2. Add the cornflour, cinnamon, orange zest and milk – mix gently to combine all ingredients
  3. Slowly heat over a low-medium flame, stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken.
  4. Pour custard into shallow ramekins and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight.
  5. Using the remaining 50 g of caster sugar, divide evenly by sprinkling over the tops of the custard in the ramekins.
  6. Caramelise the sugar using a kitchen blow torch or by placing under a very hot grill for a few minutes. Note: Keep an eye on the grill, do not let the tops burn. Grill must be super hot BEFORE placing ramekins under grill – the custard should only need a few minutes to brown, otherwise you will liquify the custard. Same thing with the kitchen blow torch, keep it moving around or you will liquify the custard. (see Troubleshooting below)
  7. Serve immediately with a couple of orange segments laid atop.


My custard is not thickening:

Take custard off of the stovetop. In a cup or small bowl, mix 2 tsp of extra cornflour with 2 tbsp of warm milk until smooth (no lumps!) and then add to custard mixture. Return custard to stove and continue to stir over heat until custard thickens up.

My custard has liquified after browning the sugar on top:

Your custard has had too much heat applied for too long and will need to go back into the fridge to set again!

Unfortunately, you won't be able to get a crisp sugar top if you have to put your custard back into the fridge for the custard to set again. To avoid this, it is best to use ramekins or serving dishes that are small and deep, rather than wide and shallow. A shallow dish heats up its contents a lot more quickly than a deep dish.

Never fear though, you can make discs of hardened sugar to place on top of your custard or to break into shards for serving alongside (like a deconstructed Crema Catalana!). Here's how:

  • Place a sheet of baking paper atop a baking tray.
  • Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan.
  • Dissolve sugar (1-2 min), continuous stirring.
  • Boil until desired colour (3-5 min), do not walk away or it will burn!!
  • Remove from heat, working quickly so sugar doesn't start to cool too much, pour syrup carefully onto lined baking tray making sure the syrup is spread thinly so you can easily break it up with a spoon but not to thin that it splinters.
  • Cool completely (30 min - 1 hr), then break into pieces and serve atop or alongside your custard.


Indulge in the perfect pairing for this dessert by reaching for a bottle of Pedro Ximénez Sherry, lovingly crafted in Jerez, Spain. Alternatively, opt for the single varietal Jerez Sherry, known as 'PX.' Serve a small 'copa' (glass) of this exquisite sherry alongside the dish.

If you prefer a different libation, shake together 100 mL of milk with a shot and a half (42 mL) of Liquor 43 over ice, and savour it chilled.

To enhance the flavour profile of this creamy delight, the addition of orange segments not only complements the citrus notes but also imparts a refreshing touch to the dessert.