5 Ingredients or Fewer

Burnt Caramel Pudding

February 20, 2011
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

So far, one of the best parts about living in Boston is my proximity to Toscanini’s burnt caramel ice cream. I’m not even that into ice cream but this flavor, with its slight bitter edge to cut the richness, is crack-like. I attempted to capture it in a pudding, and after incinerating a lot of sugar, I think I finally got it. —Midge

Test Kitchen Notes

Puddings thickened with cornstarch make great comfort food, but Midge's luxurious caramel custard, which uses egg yolks as its only setting agent, elevates pudding to dinner party fare. As with any egg-enriched custard, the key is careful tempering, and do take the caramel as far as your nerves will allow -- you'll be rewarded with a rich pudding that has just the right balance of bitter and sweet. Our favorite technique of all? Midge has you start the water bath with cool water, rather than hot; this cooks the pudding slowly but very gently, giving it the most incredibly silken, glossy structure. -A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • Fine sea salt
  1. Heat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Split vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the cream; toss the scraped pod in there too. Turn the heat to low to gently warm the cream.
  3. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sugar; pour remaining sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons water into heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Then crank the heat to high and let the liquid bubble away—don’t stir; just swirl the pan occasionally—until it turns dark amber. This takes about 4 minutes, but watch closely because it happens fast.
  4. Moving quickly, fish the vanilla pod out of the cream and save for another use. Slowly stir the warm cream into the caramel over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil (it will fast), turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Whisk a little of the cream/caramel mixture into the egg yolks. Gradually add the rest, until it's all incorporated.
  6. Strain the mixture into a pitcher or large measuring cup and pour into four ramekins. Place the ramekins in a shallow pan half filled with cold water. If you like your caramel a bit salty like me, sprinkle a few extra grains of sea salt on top of each one. Cook at 300 degrees for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Chill for at least 3 hours, but it's best if you can chill it overnight. Serve with whipped heavy cream.
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  • Jonica Hall
    Jonica Hall
  • LittleMissMuffin
  • Kathy R
    Kathy R
  • chefty
  • jamcook

Recipe by: Midge

I’m a journalist who’s covered everything from illegal logging in Central America to merit pay for teachers, but these days I write mostly about travel. I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in some far-flung locales, where poking around markets and grocery stores is my favorite thing to do. Cooking, especially baking, is my way of winding down after a long day; there’s nothing like kneading bread dough to bring you back to earth.

145 Reviews

Jonica H. December 24, 2021
I've made this several times. My guests melted. Only difference in my recipe is that I salt it. Highly recommend.
Jonica H. December 24, 2021
I meant to say that I add more than a pinch of salt. Also great to dip bacon in.
LittleMissMuffin April 18, 2020
Help!!! Making now and sugar did not turn amber - water just boiled off and left sugar sticking to pan. Still white!
Hannah May 19, 2020
Your sugar crystallized for some reason, most likely because it was "dirty", not dirt literally, but any contaminant (flour from a measuring cup, fat, anything really) that prevented the sugar crystals from melting completely and taking on any color. Try starting with a fresh bag of sugar, it's very finicky like chocolate!
LittleMissMuffin May 19, 2020
Wow thanks! Didn’t know that. I thought i posted an update somewhere that on my third attempt I used a different type of pot and it finally worked.
dpsd17 November 19, 2019
I love this dessert! I make this for myself and enjoy every drop!
Bee October 15, 2019
Can anyone who has made this tell me approx how much caramel is used in this recipe? I have a jar of homemade burnt caramel in my fridge that i would like to use but not sure how much to incorporate with the cream? Any help would be appreciated!
Jan R. November 12, 2015
These custards are wonderful! Thank you for sharing this recipe. The first time I made them was about a year ago, and after making them last week for a dinner party we had to have more just for us! Another batch is in the oven as I write this. Superb.
Midge December 7, 2015
Thank you Jan R! I love making them for dinner parties because they're portable and sort of unexpected.
SJones November 8, 2015
Ridiculously Yummy!! Saw this recipe and I had to try it. I'm glad I did. My husband and I loved it. Planning on adding this to our New Year's menu.
Midge December 7, 2015
Thanks so much!

Lindsay H. November 1, 2015
I wanted to put this in little plastic glasses for a Halloween party, so I just cooked it on the stove after tempering the eggs. Brought it up to a simmer and cooked (stirring constantly!) for another three minutes or so. Worked beautifully! Everyone raved and the presentation was really cute.
Midge November 5, 2015
oh wow, great idea!
Kathy R. April 2, 2014
Susan, this should work fine as ice cream, but use pasteurized eggs to avoid the possibility of salmonella. It might be a little rich. Consider subbing a cup of milk for a cup of heavy cream. On another note, I think it's much easier to caramelize sugar without the water. Just keep a close eye on it. Don't stir until it starts to melt, then stir with a fork until you get the color you want.
Susan March 14, 2014
Couldn't you put this custard before it goes in the oven in a ice cream machine once it's properly cooled?
Cindy March 13, 2014
My friend made this it was amazing. I'm considering doing in mini ramekins for a tasting maybe 1 or 2 ounce size. If I gently jiggle the ramekin how can I tell if it's done. I know it will thicken as it gets cold. Any input would be welcome. Thanks Midge
Sara T. December 13, 2013
I don't have ramekins, but I'd love to make this for a party tomorrow. Can I cook it in a dish or pan?
Midge December 16, 2013
Sorry I didn't get back to you in time. Have never cooked this in a big dish but I'd love to know how it turned out if you ended up doing it?
chefty December 12, 2013
Is there an optimal size for ramekins given the cooking time and measurements here? The ones I have are fairly large (7 fl oz).
Midge December 16, 2013
I use some old custard cups which are about 5 oz, but others have used 6 oz ramekins with success. Seven-ounce ramekins should be fine, maybe fill them a little less?
jamcook December 9, 2013
Can this beautiful stuff be easily doubled, or would one have to make 2 separate batches ? Would the caramel timing be affected by the doubling? Thanks
Midge December 10, 2013
Hi jamcook, You can definitely double it without a problem. Same timing for caramel.
Paula R. November 7, 2013
Great flavor, but cold water bath + over an hour and 30 minutes in the oven @ 300 degrees did not set the custard - runny results. Also, stirring cream into caramel was tough - ended up with a glob of congealed caramel on the stirrer.
paula November 6, 2013
Hi Midge. Would this work with coconut milk?
Bobz May 10, 2013
have officially made this 5 times at college. normally I wouldnt think this was something that I would make out here but its my favorite and everyone seems to love it. Thanks for the great recipe
ubs2007 February 29, 2012
Wow! Rich, creamy and silky. Perfect recipe! Also, first time a recipe was so well written that i didn't burn the caramel. Thank you so much for sharing!
Midge April 19, 2012
Thank you! I'm so glad it worked the first go round!
dnkil February 14, 2012
I made this for Valentine's Day and it was a hit. Creamy, delicious and ver very rich. This one is a keeper!
dnkil February 14, 2012
I made this for Valentine's Day and it was a hit. Creamy, delicious and ver very rich. This one is a keeper!
Midge February 15, 2012
I'm honored you tried it! Thanks so much for reporting back.
Woodside November 13, 2011
Just the right amount of rich, and ultra-smooth and creamy. Simple, and definitely guest-worthy.
Midge November 14, 2011
Thanks Woodside!