“This is my new favorite crème brûlée recipe!” I announced to my family as I scraped every last bit of it from the ramekin.
The custard is perfectly creamy, rich, and delicious, just like classic crème brûlée. Only, it’s better. Much better. The creamy base has delicate vanilla and peppermint flavors and a festive swirl of red and white.
Then it’s topped with something more delicious than caramelized sugar. The crunchy topping is made of caramelized crushed candy canes. So good! This seasonal twist on a classic French dessert is truly a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.
Grab a tiny spoon. You’ll want to savor this sweet treat. It makes the perfect addition to a Christmas dinner or sweet Valentine’s Day dessert.
I wish I could take full credit for this brilliant idea, but it was my son’s vision, from the red and white swirled filling to the candy cane brûlée. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!
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4 Ramekins (6-7 oz): I used these 7 oz ramekins from Target.
Kitchen Butane Torch: Optional, but highly recommended to caramelize the candy cane topping. You can optionally use the broiler method also described in the recipe card.
Hand Mixer: Optionally, use a whisk to mix ingredients.
Blender or Food Processor: Optionally, crush candy canes in a Ziplock bag with the back of a spoon.
This recipe uses simple ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen, plus 3 candy canes!
- Heavy cream
- Vanilla extract
- Peppermint extract
- Egg yolks: Don’t toss the whites! Refrigerate them to make an egg white omelet in the morning.
- Red food coloring gel
- Crushed candy canes: I crushed YumEarth organic, top 9 allergen-free, gluten-free candy canes in my Blendec blender. You can also use a food processor or place them in a plastic bag and smash them with a mallet or the back of a spoon.
Preheat oven to 325°. Set a kettle of water to boil. You’ll use it shortly to make a hot water bath for the custard while it bakes in the oven.
In a medium saucepan, heat cream and salt over medium heat until hot but not boiling. This takes approximately 3-5 minutes.
Remove the cream from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Set the hot cream aside.
In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until light and airy. I like to use my hand mixer for all of the beating and whisking in this recipe, but a good old whisk works just fine.
This next step requires just a little bit of patience. We’re making a custard, not scrambled eggs. Slowly pour half of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, quickly whisking until blended. Then, slowly pour in the remaining half of the cream mixture, while continuously whisking until fully blended.
Reserve ½ cup of the custard mixture in a liquid measuring cup. Set it aside for now. You’ll color it red in a moment.
Divide the remaining custard mixture evenly into four 6-7-ounce ramekins.
Mix in a small amount of red food coloring gel to the reserved ½ cup of the custard mixture until you are happy with the pink/red color.
Gently pour approximately 2 tablespoons of the red mixture in a circular pattern on top of each custard. A spiral or concentric circles work. It does not have to be perfect. Use a toothpick to create a red & white swirled design.
Note, the red & white swirl pattern is purely aesthetic. You can optionally skip this step and pour all of the uncolored custard mixture into the ramekins. For my son, the red and white swirl was essential. I think it’s a fun touch, especially if you’re serving this sweet treat to children.
Place the ramekins in a large baking dish or roasting pan. Carefully pour boiling water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins for the hot water bath.
Bake the custards for approximately 30-40 minutes until the centers are barely set. The tops will appear set, but they will still jiggle slightly when shaken.
The time varries by oven and the size and shape of your ramekin. Wide ramekins with a shallow layer of custard will cook faster than smaller ramekins with a thick layer of custard.
Cool the custards completely to room temperature for approximately 30 minutes. Then, chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, up to 3 days.
When ready to serve Candy Cane Crème Brûlées, top each custard with approximately 1 tablespoon of crushed candy canes.
Use a cooking torch to melt the candy canes and form a crispy top. I prefer the cooking torch for the perfect caramelized topping.
If you don’t have a torch, use the broiler method. Broil 2-3 inches from the heat source for approximately 5-6 minutes until the crushed candy canes melt. It can go from ready to overdone quickly, so keep a close eye on the crème brûlée while under the broiler, rotating every minute or so.
Optionally garnish with a mini candy cane, larger pieces of crushed candy canes, and fresh mint.
Serve immediately after caramelizing the sugar or refrigerate for up to 30 minutes max. Any longer and the topping can soften, losing that perfect crème brûlée crunch. Simply leave the crème brûlée in the fridge until you are ready to caramelize the candy canes. It takes just minutes and can be done while making after-dinner coffee.
You can make Candy Cane Crème Brûlée in advance. Cover with plastic wrap. Store the custards without the candy cane topping in the fridge for up to three days. Add the crushed candy cane topping and caramelize with a kitchen torch prior to serving.
Doubling & Halving
This recipe easily adjusts for a party of 2 or to satisfy a crowd.
To make a sweet Valentine’s Day dessert for two, use three egg yolks and a pinch of salt. Halve all of the other ingredients.
To double the recipe, simply double all of the ingredients. Take extra time in step five to add the cream mixture to the egg mixture in four phases, rather than two. Also, remove one full cup of custard filling to color red.
Tip! If you want to stretch the recipe, rather than double the ingredients, you can serve half portions in eight wide and shallow ramekins. They’ll bake faster, so check them after about 25 minutes. Double the crushed candy canes, so you have enough to make a delicious caramelized topping for each ramekin.
Candy Cane Crème Brûlée
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 5 egg yolks
- ½ cup sugar
- red food coloring gel
- ¼ cup crushed candy canes approximately 3 full-size candy canes
- Preheat oven to 325°. Set a kettle of water to boil for use in step #8.
- In a medium saucepan, heat cream and salt over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until well blended.
- Slowly pour half of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, quickly whisking until blended. Pour in the remaining half of the cream mixture, while continuously whisking until fully blended.
- Reserve ½ cup of the custard mixture in a liquid measuring cup. Set aside. Divide the remaining custard mixture evenly into four 6-ounce ramekins.
- Add a small amount of red food coloring gel to the reserved ½ cup of the custard mixture until the desired shade of pink/red is reached. Gently pour 2 tablespoons of the red mixture in a spiral pattern on top of each uncolored custard. Use a toothpick to create a red & cream swirled design.
- Place ramekins in a large baking dish. Carefully pour boiling water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until the centers are barely set. They will still jiggle slightly when shaken. (Wide ramekins with a thin layer of custard will cook faster than smaller ramekins with a thick layer of custard.) Cool completely to room temperature. Then, chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, up to 3 days.
- When ready to serve, top each custard with approximately 1 tablespoon of crushed candy canes. Use a cooking torch to melt the candy canes and form a crispy top. Serve immediately.