Spanish Recipes

Catalan Cream, Crema Catalana Recipe

Catalan Cream or Crema Catalana, or Crema Cremada (burnt cream) as it is called in Spain, is one of Europe’s oldest desserts, Spain’s famous burnt custard dessert flavoured with orange, lemon and a hint of cinnamon and has an irresistibly creamy texture and caramelized sugar topping.

Catalan Cream vs. Crème Brûlée:  What is the Difference?  

Crème brûlée is flavoured with vanilla while Catalan cream is made with both vanilla and also flavoured with orange and/or lemon and a hint of cinnamon.

Crème brûlée is made with all cream while Catalan cream is made with milk or sometimes a combination of both (but more milk than cream).  Whereas crème brûlée is thickened with the whole egg, Catalan cream only uses the egg yolk resulting in an even richer, creamier and slightly less firm texture.  Some also describe crème brûlée as having a “greasier” texture whereas Catalan cream is lighter and more delicate.

Catalan Cream is actually the oldest version of the desert and dates back to at least the 14th century, whereas the earliest known recipe for crème brûlée didn’t appear until 1691.

This desert is enjoyed all year round in Catalonia but is also traditionally served on Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19th and is sometimes called Crema de Sant Josep after Saint Joseph the husband of the Virgin Mary.

Ingredients - Serves 6

2 tablespoons 15g of corn starch 

600ml of whole milk Note - Make sure to use whole milk for a creamy crema Catalana. Heavy cream could also be used.

A large slice of peel from a lemon and an orange (not the zest)

1 cinnamon stick

5 large egg yolks

100 g superfine sugar, if you can't find superfine, don't worry use granulated, it'll just be a bit more grainy

Additional sugar to caramelize on top, if you can use turbinado sugar. (Turbinado sugar is sugarcane that has been only partially refined so that it still has some of the original molasses content.  It is NOT the same as brown sugar.  The sugar crystals are also coarser/larger and make for a thicker burnt sugar topping over the Catalan cream). 

Fresh fruit such as figs, raspberries or strawberries for decoration.

Catalan Cream Recipe


Place the milk in a small saucepan, along with the citrus peels and the cinnamon stick. Slowly bring to a boil at medium-high heat.

Dissolve the corn starch in a small amount of water and set aside.

While the milk is slowly heating, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, until the mixture turns pale yellow. Beat in the dissolved corn starch and a spoonful of the hot milk.

Remove the citrus peels and cinnamon stick from the hot milk and lower the heat.


Slowly add the egg yolk mixture to the milk, making sure to keep stirring so that the eggs don’t scramble!  Stir constantly over a low heat, until the mixture has thickened.

Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into traditional clay dishes or ramekins.

Allow the custard to cool, and then cover in plastic wrap and chill for about four hours or preferably overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle a layer of sugar on top of each ramekin. The more you add, the thicker the crunchy burnt sugar topping will be. Spread the sugar out by tilting the ramekins in all directions. Caramelize with a small kitchen blowtorch, or for a truly authentic crema catalanas use a hot iron.  Some people prefer a darker crust, others lighter — it’s up to you!

Top with fresh fruit (optional)

How can I caramelize crema catalana in the oven?

If you don’t have a blowtorch handy, you can caramelize the crema catalana in the oven. Put it under the grill (the hottest possible top heat) until you see the sugar melting and crystalizing. Make sure your dish is oven safe for high temperatures and keep a close eye on it — it can burn in an instant! It might not get as caramelized as the other methods, but it will definitely work.

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