Burnt Caramel Pudding

February 20, 2011

Test Kitchen-Approved

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

Food52 Review: 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&MThe Editors

Serves: 4


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • Fine sea salt
In This Recipe


  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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Reviews (138) Questions (5)

138 Reviews

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.
Author Comment
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.
Author Comment
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.
Author Comment
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?
Author Comment
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).
Author Comment
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
Author Comment
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!
Author Comment
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!
Author Comment
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.
Author Comment
Midge November 14, 2011
Thanks Woodside!
igor November 13, 2011
I am living in italy and was delighted to run across this recipe. Cant wait to try it - It has made me a touch home sick for Cambridge - and Toscanini's Ice Cream. But, in the meantime I am going to forward this to Gus at Toscanini's and let him know how much he impacts and inspires people. Thanks Midge, for such a great recipe.
And thanks Amanda and Merrill for this web site. Every time i use it, it teaches me something and makes me a better cook, and so aware of how food and all it's joys crosses any culture, or man made border. One of the few untouchable freedoms for all in this world!!
Author Comment
Midge November 13, 2011
Thanks so much for your comments. I no longer live in Boston and I too am homesick for Toscanini's. Couldn't agree with you more about Food52!
perfectchaos October 9, 2011
Thank you Midge for this fun offering; I white knuckled during the sugar browning, only swirling the pan now and then, but you are absolutely correct with the four minutes time frame. All was so easy, and the custard has an amazing depth of flavor finish!
Thanks again!

Author Comment
Midge October 10, 2011
The sugar-browning part is a little nerve-wracking, but worth it. I'm so glad it worked for you.
Lindseytriestocook September 18, 2011
This was delicious. Really, really delicious. Thank you for posting.
Author Comment
Midge September 21, 2011
Thanks, Lindsey. So happy you thought so.
bejugo August 4, 2011
Hi Midge, it was a nice coincidence meeting a fellow MU grad a few months ago when you visited Portland. When I visited my family in Wisconsin last week I made your Burnt Caramel Pudding. Everybody, from 4 years old up to 75, was delighted with how delicious this pudding was. Thanks for the great recipe.
Author Comment
Midge August 4, 2011
Thanks so much bejugo! I'm so happy you gave it a try and that it was a hit. Great meeting you too and say hi to Wisconsin for me. Don't think I'll make it there this summer, sadly.