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5-Ingredient Eggnog Crème Brûlée

4.6 stars (57 ratings)

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Decadently delicious, eggnog crème brûlée makes the perfect ending for your Christmas dinner. It’s a luscious dessert of creamy custard with the rich flavor of eggnog hidden under a crunchy layer of brûléed sugar. It may look fancy, but with only five ingredients, it’s easier than you would expect. Even better, you can make it in advance and brûlée the tops just prior to serving.

Overhead image of eggnog creme brulee garnished with a sugared cranberry.

The Easiest of Fancy Desserts

Crème brûlée is one of the first “fancy” desserts that I mastered in the kitchen. I put quotes on fancy because once you understand it, it’s not really that fancy at all. It may look fancy and be served in fancy restaurants, but really, it’s just a basic custard with torched sugar on top.

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making custard. It’s a kitchen skill that you can easily master, and it’s the basis for things like pies, tarts, ice cream, and even a cooked version of homemade eggnog.

On my first attempt, I made a mess and curdled the eggs. Then I threw it all out, gave up and opened a bottle of wine. A few months later, with a lot more research and a little more experimentation, I finally got it right and shared my Lemon Crème Brûlée for Valentine’s Day.

Since then, I’ve made many versions of creme brulee, but the one I like best during the holiday season will always be this eggnog creme brulee recipe. It’s smooth and creamy, like any custard should be, but the hint of rum and nutmeg makes it taste like the holidays.

What You’ll Need

This fancy Christmas creme brulee calls for five simple ingredients: heavy cream, eggnog, egg yolks, white granulated sugar, and nutmeg. Creme brulee leans heavily on the fat content of the heavy cream to create the thick decadent texture, so don’t swap it out for a fat-free version.

Ingredients for eggnog creme brulee

Featured Ingredient: Eggnog

Eggnog is a rich, sweet, often alcoholic cocktail traditionally associated with the Christmas holiday season in the US. It’s made from sugar, eggs, milk, cream, and nutmeg and spiked with rum, brandy, or bourbon. Most people love or hate it.

When creating this recipe, my first question was whether I should make it with eggnog or build the flavors of eggnog into the creme brulee. After all, both eggnog and a basic vanilla creme brulee call for sugar, eggs, milk, and cream. The difference is that eggnog also calls for the addition of nutmeg and that alcoholic kick.

So, like any good recipe creator, I tested a nutmeg and rum-flavored crème brûlée next to this recipe, where I essentially swapped the milk for eggnog. While the results of the nutmeg and rum-flavored version were good, they weren’t magical, and for Christmas, we want magical! The version made with eggnog had a much more developed flavor that made the whole dessert taste like eggnog.

The secret lies in the fact that the eggnog is allowed to go through an aging process, which allows the flavors to meld in a way that they don’t when making a flavored custard and baking it immediately. It’s like making spaghetti sauce and eating it right away instead of letting it simmer for hours. It’s good, but it’s not yet great. Using an eggnog that was made at least the day before is definitely the way to go for this recipe.

Eggnog Recommendations

The best eggnog for eggnog crème brûlée is the kind of eggnog that you like. Seriously. Want to use Grandpa’s secret family recipe? You can. Prefer to use a non-alcoholic version? Go for it! Do you like the store-bought stuff? It totally works, too.

As long as the consistency of the eggnog is somewhere between that of 2% milk and half and half, it will work for this recipe. If yours is thinner, I’d question if it’s actually eggnog. If it’s thicker, you can thin it out with a splash or two of milk. It really is that flexible. If you haven’t found your ideal recipe for homemade eggnog, you can start here:

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How to Make Eggnog Creme Brulee

Making creme brulee is easier than you would expect for a fancy dessert. Here are the basic steps, but you’ll find more complete instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  • Preheat oven to 300ºF and prepare your pan. – Place ramekins in a baking dish and boil the water.
  • Make the custard. – Whisk together sugar and egg yolks in a medium sized bowl until the sugar dissolves, it lightens in color and takes on a thick, creamy texture. In a medium saucepan combine eggnog and cream then heat over medium heat until bubbles start to form at the edge. Do not let it boil. Gradually whisk the egg yolk mixture with the eggnog cream. Adding the hot cream too quickly to the egg yolks will result in scrambled eggs.
  • Transfer to ramekins. – Strain mixture into a large measuring cup with a pour spout, then divide the custard mixture equally into the ramekins.
  • Create the water bath. – Carefully pour hot water into the pan until it’s half way up the side of the ramekins.
  • Bake in the water bath. – Bake uncovered on a centered oven rack for 30 – 35 minutes or until centers are set.
  • Cool completely. – Remove ramekins from the water bath as soon as you can safely handle them, to stop the cooking process. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate for a minimum of three hours.
  • Finish and serve. – Cover each custard with white granulated sugar. Brulee the tops with a kitchen torch until the sugar is caramelized. Dust with nutmeg and top with optional sugared cranberries and serve immediately.

Brûléeing Eggnog Crème Brûlée

The secret behind making a successful creme brulee is creating that perfectly crunchy, caramelized sugar top. It should be thick enough to completely cover the creme, but thin enough that it cracks like glass when hit with the back of a spoon. It will crunch between your teeth without getting stuck, adding a fantastic textural contrast from the rich creamy custard.

There are many recipes out there that claim you can use the broiler in your oven to brûlée your crème brûlée. I’m not saying they are wrong, but whenever I’ve tried, I end up with uneven results, burnt spots, and even parts with raw sugar.

You know what’s easier? Getting an inexpensive kitchen torch and using it instead. You can find them on Amazon between $18 and $30, and once you own one, you’ll find many more ways to use it. I’ve linked to mine in the kitchen tools section above. Don’t forget to add the butane to your order, too!

Overhead view of the steps for bruleeing the tops of creme brulee.

When brûléeing with a culinary torch there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t skimp on the sugar! You need a thin even layer to caramelize without burning the custard below.
  • Keep the flame constantly moving. 
  • Hold it close enough to touch the dessert, but not too close. 
  • Most have a safety switch that will automatically turn them off when you release the button. If yours doesn’t, do not set it down while it’s still on. 
  • If the sugar flames up, extinguish it before the whole dessert burns.
  • Check out my Kitchen Safety tips, and keep a fire extinguisher handy, just in case.

Tips for Success

No matter how much I stress that eggnog creme brulee is an easy fancy dessert, there are always tips I can share to make it easier. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Start your boiling water when you start preheating your oven. This recipe comes together quickly and you’ll want the boiling water ready to make the water bath as soon as your creme brulees are ready to bake.
  • Don’t rush the tempering process. Adding the egg yolk mixture to the eggnog mixture too quickly will turn the egg yolks into scrambled eggs. Gradually adding the hot eggnog mixture and whisking to temper between additions will prevent this.
  • Adjust the baking dish size based on the size of your ramekins. Short, wide ramekins will take up more space in a baking dish than tall, skinny ones.
Overhead image of eggnog creme brulee garnished with a sugared cranberry next to a tray of sugared cranberries.

Serving Suggestions

One of the best parts about creme brulee is the satisfying crack when you break through that thick bruleed sugar topping for the very first time and bite into that cool, creamy custard. To achieve this, creme brulee should be served fully chilled with the tops bruleed just prior to serving. If you brulee the tops in advance, the moisture from the custard will cause them to soften as they sit, which doesn’t make for good creme brulee.

After bruleeing the tops of each custard, I like to dust them with nutmeg and add a sugared cranberry garnish. While the spice of the nutmeg adds an extra oomph of flavor, the sweet and tart cranberry helps break up the sweetness of the creme brulee and adds another crunchy element to your dessert.

Optional Sugared Cranberry Garnish

Sugared cranberries have become my favorite sweet treat of the season. As you can guess, there are many methods for making candied cranberries, and of course, I have my own, which you can find in detail in my Sugared Cranberries recipe post. They are not required, but they do add a pretty, festive touch when serving these for the holidays.

They are fairly simple to make and you’ll end up with candied cranberries, pink decorative sugar, and a cranberry simple syrup that can be used for cocktails, mimosas, holiday sodas, and more. You’ll want to start them a day or two in advance so that they have plenty of time to harden after soaking.

Two eggnog creme brulees with sugared cranberries in from of sparkly Christmas lights.

How to Store

Like most creme brulees, eggnog creme brulee will keep covered in the fridge for 2 – 3 days, or can be stored in the freezer for 2 – 3 months.

When frozen, allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge for the best texture. DO NOT THAW IN THE MICROWAVE OR HOT WATER. For freezer storage, you can wrap the individual ramekins in aluminum foil or make the crème brûlée in lidded, freezer-safe glass canning jars.

Yes, eggnog crème brûlée can be made in advance; in fact, it tastes better if you let it sit in the fridge overnight. However, do not brûlée the tops until just before serving.

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eggnog crème brûlée in a white ramekin with sugared cranberries on top.

5-Ingredient Eggnog Crème Brûlée

Decadently delicious, eggnog crème brûlée makes the perfect ending for your Christmas dinner. It's a luscious dessert of creamy custard with the rich flavor of eggnog hidden under a crunchy layer of brûléed sugar. It may look fancy, but with only five ingredients, it's easier than you would expect. Even better, you can make it in advance and brûlée the tops just prior to serving.
4.6 stars (57 ratings)
prep: 20 minutes
cook: 30 minutes
total: 50 minutes
servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Eggnog Custard

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup eggnog

Crème Brûlée Topping

  • 5 TBSP white sugar – divided
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 16 – 20 candied cranberries (optional – see notes)

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 300ºF. Boil water for the water bath, preferably in a tea kettle for easy pouring. Place four 5 ounce ramekins into a 8×8 or 9×9 square pan. 
  • Separate egg yolks from the whites, reserving the whites for another recipe. Whisk together sugar and egg yolks in a medium sized bowl until it lightens in color and takes on a thick, creamy texture.
  • Heat cream and eggnog over medium heat until bubbles start to form at the edge. About 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and do not let it boil. 
  • Temper the egg yolks by slowly adding about 1/2 cup of the warmed eggnog and cream into the egg yolk mixture, while whisking constantly. Once incorporated repeat with another 1/2 cup of warm eggnog and cream. Then add the egg yolk, eggnog, cream mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining eggnog and cream. Adding the hot cream too quickly to the egg yolks will result in scrambled eggs.
  • Strain mixture, preferably into a large measuring cup with a pour spout. Discard any lumps of cooked egg from the strainer.
  • Divide the custard mixture equally into the ramekins. Create the water bath by pouring the boiling water into the pan until it's half way up the side of the ramekins. Careful not to pour water into the custard.
  • Bake in the water bath for 30 – 35 minutes or until centers are set. To test lightly jiggle the pan. The centers should jiggle like jello. 
  • Remove from the water bath as soon as you can safely handle them, to stop the cooking process. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate for a minimum of three hours.
  • Cover each custard with 1 1/2 teaspoons of white sugar, adjusting for ramekin width if needed. Brulee the tops with a kitchen torch until the sugar is caramelized. Dust with nutmeg and top with optional sugared cranberries.

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Notes

To make Candied Cranberries:
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and half a cup water in a small pan. Heat over medium flame until sugar melts. Add 12 oz of cranberries, cover, remove from flame and allow to cool one to two hours. Pour cranberries and syrup into an airtight container and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Strain the cranberries from the syrup (save the syrup for cocktails, cranberry mimosas, homemade sodas, etc).
Place 1/2 cup of sugar in the bottom of a small dinner plate. Pour on the strained, but still sticky cranberries. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir with a spoon to coat, then move sugar coated cranberries to a clean plate and dry, uncovered, in the fridge, about an hour. The pink sugar can also be dried out and reused for other festive holiday treats. Candied cranberries with their crunchy sugar coating will last for a week or so in the fridge as long as they are uncovered. 

Nutrition

Serving: 5ouncesCalories: 374kcal

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements.

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About Renee N Gardner

I'm the recipe developer, food photographer, and mastermind behind Renee Nicole's Kitchen, where I help create kitchen confidence to inspire home cooks to become home chefs. No fancy fads here, just high-quality, homemade recipes featuring seasonal ingredients.

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11 Comments on “5-Ingredient Eggnog Crème Brûlée”

  1. Worked great had to go a little longer in the oven cause i did an 8 times recipe but they came out phenomenal. An instant hit at our dinner party.

    Reply
  2. Oops it was Epicurious, and formulated for one large flan type dessert. Baking at 350 – I knew it was probably a huge mistake to make 11 individual sized brulees and bake so hot. UGH! I should know to trust my better judgement. Comments please??

    Reply
  3. After having a less than satisfactory result with my “Eggnog Creme Brulee” this year, I was happy to see your version (Mine was I think from Bon Appetit. 8 yolks, 3/4 c sugar, some rum and a dash of brandy, and 4 cups full fat cream. Yikes!) It turned out curdled and grainy – very disappointing. I think it was because I carelessly let the cream come to a full boil. Argh! Such a waste of cream! I will try your version next time. One question: can a person use frozen Cranberries to make the sugared ones or do they have to be fresh? Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Karin!

      Your comment got marked as spam, so my apologies on the delay in getting back to you.

      For the cranberries you need to use fresh. The frozen ones tend to lose their shape after being defrosted, resulting in deflated and broken berries. In order to look and taste right, you need to start with firm, plump, unbroken, fresh cranberries.

      I hope you were able to try this version and had better results than you did with altering the previous recipe!

      Renee

      Reply
    • Carl,

      I’m so sorry it didn’t turn out for you. The recipe is based on the standard formula of 1 egg yolk per 1/2 cup of cream and 2 TBSP sugar, with the sugar being reduced to account for the sugar in the egg nog. Using the eggnog as a swap for half of the cream shouldn’t require additional fortification, as it also contains eggs and should have enough fat to set up properly. While adding an extra egg yolk or two certainly won’t hurt it, it would make for a heavier, denser custard.

      However, since yours didn’t set you’ve got me thinking. Did you use a full fat eggnog or a low fat version? My tests were done with a full fat homemade eggnog made with whole milk and cream, but I did browse the eggnog selection at the store recently and noticed a lot more low fat varieties than full fat varieties. This makes me think that the fat content may be our disconnect. If you used a low fat (or fat free) version and it didn’t set up I definitely want to add a note to the recipe to reflect adding extra egg yolks to account for the reduced fat in the eggnog. I look forward to hearing from you!

      Renee

      Reply
      • That’s is so frustrating! I’m happy to attempt to troubleshoot this with you. When you say it didn’t set, do you mean in the time allotted or did you continue to bake it and it still wouldn’t set?

        Since you used full fat cream and full fat eggnog, the next likely culprit would be the temperature of the oven or the temperature of your water bath. Do you use your oven often and are you sure that it maintains the right temperature? I once made them in my mom’s brand new oven and it took over an hour to get them to bake. Turns out her new oven was off by about 75º, which made for a really frustrating visit when she put me in charge of the cooking! Could it be possible that your oven isn’t maintaining the right temperature? Was the water boiling when you added it to the pan for the water bath? If that water isn’t straight off the burner steaming hot, it can take some of the oven’s energy away from baking the creme brulees, making them take much longer that the suggested time.

        Ovens do vary and so do cooking times. Could it be that you gave up too soon? Perhaps your creme brulees didn’t get hot enough to fully set. The internal temp of the creme brulees need to reach 160º when tested with a probe thermometer in order to set. If yours didn’t get enough time to come up to temperature, then this could be the cause.

        The last possibility is that you didn’t have enough egg yolk in the mix. Like most standard recipes, I use large eggs, which have eggs around 2 tablespoons in size. If you used smaller eggs (or farm eggs) you may not have had enough yolk. If this sounds like the right answer, you can use larger eggs next time or keep with the same size and throw in an extra egg yolk.

        I hope something here helps!

        Renee

4.57 from 57 votes (57 ratings without comment)

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