In a miraculous stroke of culinary genius, someone thought that topping vanilla custard with a brittle crust of caramelized sugar would taste good. Of course they were wrong — it tasted incredibly delicious. The dessert is best known as Crème Brûlée (“burnt creme” in French), but depending on where you’re from, it’s also known as Crema Catalana and Trinity Burnt Creme. Whatever you like to call this intensely creamy, crunchy and luxurious dish, keep in mind that National Crème Brûlée Day is July 27 — so schedule your day of indulgence now!
National Creme Brûlée Day - History
The first printed recipe for a dessert called crème brûlée appeared in the 1691 edition of the French cookbook Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois.
Cambridge Burnt Cream or "Trinity Cream" appears in England
According to Colin Spencer, author of "British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History," a dessert similar to crème brûlée appears to have been prepared regularly.
- 15th century
Burnt cream dish served
Burnt cream dessert — branded with the official college crest on top — begins to be served at Trinity College in Cambridge, England.
- Medieval times
Crema catalana regularly served
Crema catalana, custard topped with caramelized sugar, is reportedly served regularly in Spain.
National Creme Brûlée Day Activities
Find a classic version of the recipe and make it.
There's nothing like the original. If you haven't made a standard crème brûlée before, just know that there are lots of nuanced variations between recipes in terms of ingredient amounts and methods. This includes whether you broil to create your crispy topping, or go all in and use a small butane torch to get that crust.
Make a few variations and share it with friends.
No need to stop at vanilla to make a killer crème brûlée. You can substitute virtually any flavor extract or spice mix as you prepare your custard, and include fruit or other garnishes before baking. You can find recipes to make it taste like key lime, chai, Irish coffee, even pineapple!
Have a crème brûlée-themed party.
You can make everyone their own crème, or work from recipes for crème brûlée-flavored brownies, cheesecake, cupcakes, pie, or other derivations. If there's anything better than decadence, it's decadence shared among friends.
5 Fiery Facts About Crème Brûlée
You don't need a butane torch to make a crème brûlée topping — just broil for two to three minutes.
Eggs, cream, vanilla, sugar, and water are all you need to make crème brûlée.
The largest crème brûlée on record weighed 1,600 pounds.
Vegan crème brûlée can be made from coconut and almond milk, sugar, corn starch, nutritional yeast, and vanilla bean.
Popcorn, chocolate bars, donuts, cocktails, and hair products have all been made to taste or smell like crème brûlée.
Why We Love National Creme Brûlée Day
It's a heavenly dessert.
Consider that crème brûlée is a custard made up of a mixture of vanilla-infused cream, egg yolks, and sugar, with more sugar on top.
It's got intriguingly contested origins.
The first crème brûlée recipe appeared in a royal cookbook written by a cook at the Palace of Versailles in 1691. But a similar dessert called Trinity Burnt Creme appeared as far back as 15th century England — and there's even earlier evidence of a Spanish version called Crema Catalana.
It's more versatile than you think.
Since crème brûlée bounced back into popularity during the '80s, the dessert has been modified way beyond its vanilla basics — with cooks jazzing up the flavors to include everything from chocolate and lemon to peach and Nutella. There's even a recipe out there for a snickerdoodle-flavored crème. Mon dieu!