Serves 1
Prep Time
Cook Time
Difficulty Level
Download or Print

The idea of getting up to make dessert for yourself may come across as strange and a bit laborious, but this elegant and dreamy crème caramel will make you thank yourself for it. Soft in its mild custard and and infused in scorched syrup, you may just start believing that this delicate dessert is better off as a solitary treat.

This recipe is featured in Nigella Lawson’s new BBC show which focuses on her favourite recipes for home-cooking. Nigella’s Eat, Cook, Repeat, premieres in Singapore on Monday, 16th August at 7.00pm, on StarHub channel 432 and BBC Player.


  • 2 x 15 ml tbsps (25 g) caster sugar
  • 2 tsps cold water
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 tsps caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 150 ml full-fat milk

Heat the oven to 140 C (120 C fan-forced), put the kettle on, tear off a piece of foil and cut out a square that’s 1½-2 cm bigger than the diameter of the top of the dish or mould you’re using. When I first rushed to make this, I used a sweet little 200 ml ceramic pudding basin that I must have bought once in a fit of cute, and found in the back of a messy cupboard. Fortune smiled: it was just right for the job. Otherwise, I favour preserving jars, drinking glasses or ceramic or glass ramekins; they all need to have a 200 ml capacity and be heatproof.


Put your chosen mould very near the hob, and spoon the sugar into a very small saucepan with a light-coloured interior–I use my pixie-pan, more properly known as a butter melter, with a 9 cm diameter, but a milk pan of about 14 cm is just as good–and add the 2 tsps of water. Swirl the pan a little, then put over medium-low heat to melt the sugar and bring it to the boil, lifting the pan up and giving it a swirl every now and again. Don’t even think of stirring it. Once the now-clear melted sugar starts bubbling away, you can turn the heat up a little, and then wait for it to turn first gold, then amber, then watch until it’s somewhere between maple syrup and chestnut; I like the caramel to be as dark and smoky as it can be without actually burning. Be patient, lift up and swirl the pan often and monitor it closely; as Tammy almost sang, Stand By Your Pan. Immediately it’s turned the requisite deep amber, pour the caramel into the bottom of your mould, and now give this a swirl, just so the caramel goes a little up the sides. Place the mould in a small tin or ovenproof dish.


In a Pyrex jug or similar, briskly stir the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla extract, just until combined. I use a small silicon spatula for this, as a whisk would get too much air into the mixture.


Warm the milk about 40 secs in the microwave, and then pour it over the eggs and sugar, stirring and scraping with your little spatula, making sure there are no visible yellow bits of egg left at the bottom. Strain this–you must not think of dispensing with this step–over your caramel-lined mould and then, with a teaspoon, carefully remove any bubbles or froth. Cover the mould with your square of foil, making sure it doesn’t touch the custard mixture, and seal it well all around the edges.


Pour hot water from the just-boiled kettle into the tin or dish to come about a third of the way up the mould, and slowly and steadily put it in the oven. Bake for 30 mins, then lean in and very carefully remove the foil, and leave in the oven to cook for a further 20 mins by which time it will be just set, with a little bit of a quiver.


Remove the tin from the oven and very carefully lift the crème caramel mould out of the water, and leave it on the kitchen counter until completely cold. Cover with food wrap and place in the fridge overnight, or for at least 6 hrs.


Take the crème caramel out of the fridge 30 mins before you want to eat it. Uncover, and with a very small palette knife, try very gently to pull the top of the soft-set cooked custard away from the sides of the mould. Fill a dish about 3 cm deep with water from a just-boiled kettle, or very hot water from the tap, and stand or dip the crème caramel mould in the water for the count of 5. Now for the fun part: sit a saucer or small lipped plate on top of the mould, turn it swiftly and firmly the right way up and give the smallest of shakes to help dislodge it. You will hear a muffled squelch as the crème caramel begins to slide out of the mould and onto its saucer. Gently remove the mould, and gaze at this tender, bulging, copper-topped beauty for a moment, before you plunge in your teaspoon, and become suffused, as you eat, by sweet serenity.

Download or print the recipe