Why did my baked custard curdle?

I made a baked custard last night and while it tasted good, the texture was lumpy, like it had curdled. The recipe called for whisking together 4 eggs, 2 cups milk, 1tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar. The mixture was then poured into ramekins and baked at 325 degrees until they set. Mine took about an hour before they set up.
I’m wondering if. Should have strained the mixture before pouring it into the dishes? Or used a water bath?

  • Posted by: ktr
  • January 14, 2018


Shuna L. January 28, 2018
Custards which are made with milk and whole eggs benefit from resting overnight in the fridge before baking. This is true of flan and crème caramel, which employ hot milk, but especially true for custards that are mixed with cold milk.

Yes, a water bath is always necessary, in custard baking.

Whole egg custard mixtures should always be strained through a fine mesh strainer, to remove any unincorporated parts of the raw egg, especially the chalazae.

The oven temp sounds hot to me, for baking a cold custard base. I don't like my oven to be above 300 for baking custards. Also, every oven is so so different. My 300F oven might be someone else's 275F oven.. I like to play it safe, so I keep an oven thermometer inside. I also like my custard base to be as close to room temp as it can be, before heading into the oven. Sometimes the shock of a cold base + a hot oven will be too much.

Custards are delicate creatures.

I hope this helps. I, too, have seen and tasted my fair share of overcooked custards! I have had to learn a lot of this the hard, expensive way.
ktr January 15, 2018
Thank you! Over-baking was definitely at least part of the issue.
Emma L. January 14, 2018
Hi ktr! A curdled custard is usually a symptom of an overcooked custard. Straining could help make the mixture smoother from the start. And the water bath could help cushion any overcooking. So, both good options! The confectioners' sugar is also catching my eye. Stovetop custards, like pastry cream, often include sugar and cornstarch—the two ingredients in confectioners' sugar—while oven-baked custards usually just include sugar. The cornstarch helps thicken and set the custard, so maybe this recipe is particularly sensitive in the oven. Perhaps try one with just sugar instead?
ktr January 14, 2018
I will give it a try using granular sugar next time. Also, how set should they be before I remove them from the oven? I waited until they didn’t jiggle at all and were firm all the way through.
Liz D. January 15, 2018
If they don't jiggle at all when you take them out, they are overcooked. They should still be jiggly in the center when you remove them from the oven, as they will continue to cook a bit after you've taken them out
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