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Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée

Creamy and dreamy, this Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée features a custard filling laced with pumpkin spice and a layer of perfectly brûléed sugar on top. This decadent fall version of the classic french dessert is easier to make than you think and it can be made in advance, making it the perfect non-pie dessert for your Thanksgiving celebration.

A ramekin of pumpkin spice creme brulee on a blue plate

A Decadent Fall Treat

Like many others, I had myself convinced for a very long time that crème brûlée was something that only fancy chefs could make. It was a dessert that I adored but never even attempted to make at home. I finally gave it a go and after a couple failed attempts, I perfected my technique and I began experimenting with crème brûlée flavors for every season of the year.

Last year I added the eggnog crème brûlée and this year, I’m sharing my pumpkin spice creme brûlée. Note: this is a pumpkin spice crème brûlée recipe, not a pumpkin creme brulee recipe. There is no pumpkin in this version. Instead it’s made with pumpkin pie spice, the very same spice blend used to season pumpkin pie, so it’s loaded with all the warming spices that make up that signature flavor of fall.

Pumpkin spice crème brûlée is a dessert guaranteed to impress your guests, Great for fall and a perfect for alternative to pie at your Thanksgiving celebration. The best part is that the custards can be prepared in advance and bruleed just before serving.

What You’ll Need

One myth about crème brûlée is that it requires lots of complicated ingredients but in reality, a basic creme brulee can be made with just 4 ingredients. To really capture that pumpkin spice flavor, this version uses 8.

  • Brown sugar – Used in place of the standard white sugar, it gives the custard a richer flavor that really compliments the pumpkin pie spice blend.
  • Egg yolks – An essential ingredient in making custard. The whites can be repurposed for meringues, pavlovas, or macaroons.
  • Pumpkin spice – Pick up in the spice aisle, or blend your own with my pumpkin spice mix listed below.
  • Vanilla extract – Makes every baked good better!
  • Salt – A pinch of salt brings out the flavor of all the other ingredients.
  • Heavy whipping cream – Also an essential ingredient for making a creamy custard. The higher the fat content, the better.
  • Whole milk – Used in place of some of the heavy cream to lighten up the dish without compromising the thick texture.
  • White sugar – Added to the top of each custard, the sugar is bruleed until it melts to make the caramelized sugar crust. Do not substitute with raw sugar or powdered sugar, they won’t melt correctly.

Recommended Kitchen Tools

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  • custard cups or ramekins – These come in multiple shapes, sizes, and colors. Look for ones that will hold 5 ounces and are oven safe.
  • balloon whisk
  • fine mesh strainer
  • 9″ x 9″ baking dish – Or size needed to hold all of your ramekins. Make sure the sides are tall enough to create a water bath.
  • kitchen torch or culinary torch – Don’t forget the fuel too!

How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Spice Mix

This pumpkin spice creme brulee uses the same pumpkin spice mix used in pie. While you can find it at the store, I prefer to make my own with the following recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

How to Make Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée

Making this festive crème brûlée is easier than you think. Just follow these instructions exactly and you’ll end up with the perfect crème brûlée on your first try!

4 ramekins of pumpkin spice creme brulee on a baking rack
  • Boil hot water. This is for the water bath – I prefer to use a tea kettle for easy pouring.
  • Whisk egg yolks. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. In a large bowl whisk together the brown sugar, together the brown sugar, yolks, pumpkin spice mix, vanilla, and salt.
  • Simmer the cream. Bring cream, whole milk, and white sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally and do not let it boil.
  • Combine. Slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture. Whisk constantly. Pour mixture through a strainer to remove any lumps of cooked egg.
  • Bake. Divide the custard into ramekins, then place ramekins in a 9×9 inch pan – or size needed to hold them all. Add the boiling water to the pan, until it’s 1/2 to 3/4 way up the sides of the ramekins. Do not get any water on the custard. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the centers are set.
  • Cool and chill. Cool custards to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  • Brulee the tops. Layer on the sugar, then use a kitchen torch or the oven broiler to brulee the tops of the creme brulee. Serve immediately.
Overhead view of pumpkin spice creme brulee ingredients

How to use a kitchen torch to brûlée crème brûlée

If this is your first time using a kitchen torch to brûlée your crème brûlée, here are a few tips for a perfectly crystallized topping.

  1. Use white granulated sugar – and plenty of it! You’ll want a thin, even layer of white sugar across the top surface of the custard to get that delightful caramelized, cracker layer and avoid burning the custard below. I sprinkle it on with a spoon, then use the back of the spoon to gently spread it evenly over the top.
  2. Keep the flame moving. You’ll want to be constantly moving the flame across the sugar and avoid holding it in one spot, which can lead to excessive burning. To brulee means to burn, but we want to burn it to the point of caramelizing, not enough to make it inedible.
  3. Hold it close to the dessert. The flame should touch the dessert. It takes a concentrated heat to melt the sugar.
  4. Don’t place the torch on the counter while it’s on. Most kitchen torches automatically turn off when the button is released, but many of them have a switch to override this while using for an extended time. While this makes your job easier, it’s a HUGE fire hazard to set down a torch while it’s running.
  5. Know and practice fire safety. Every kitchen should have a properly maintained fire extinguisher. When using a kitchen torch, it’s a good idea to have that fire extinguisher close at hand – better safe than sorry!
  6. Don’t worry if the first try isn’t perfect. Like with all things, this is a “practice makes perfect” situation. You’ll get better as you go on.
Overhead view of a ramekin of pumpkin spice creme brulee on a blue plate

Tips for Success

Through trial and error, and lots of crème brûlée, I’ve discovered a few essential things to make this perfectly creamy custard dish.

  • Avoid cooking the egg with the cream. It’s important to add the hot cream to the egg yolks SLOWLY and to constantly whisk them as you do. This slow process is called tempering and it allows the eggs to come up to temperature without turning into scrambled eggs.
  • Use a find mesh strainer. Even the most seasoned creme brulee pro will occasionally end up with a chunk of cooked eggs in their custard. The straining step removes it and ensures a silky texture in the final product.
  • Don’t skip the water bath. The water bath is essential in preventing your crème brûlée preventing from drying out and cracking. Just place your ramekins in baking dish with tall sides – a cake pan works well – and add the water around them. Be sure to use boiling hot water, not cold water.
  • Use a kitchen torch to brûlée the topping. While you can make your crème brûlée under the broiler, I’ve always had better luck using a kitchen torch. I’ve found it gives you much more control which results in all of the sugar being perfectly browned.

Serving Suggestions

With the perfectly crystalized sugar topping, you don’t need much else to serve your pumpkin spice crème brûlée! Personally, I just grab a spoon and dive in! If you feel like you must add something to this dessert try a dollop of whipped cream with some crushed gingersnaps on top, or perhaps a serving of stewed apples or poached pears on the side.

However you choose to serve it, do not brulee the tops until right before taking it to the table. The moisture of the custard will immediately start seeping into the custard and softening it. If you do it too early, you won’t get that satisfying crunch of breaking through the sugar layer.

Pumpkin spice creme brulee on a blue palte with a spoon and cinnamon sticks

How to Store

Creme brulees can refrigerated for about 3 days without compromising the texture, which means these delightful little desserts can and should be made in advance. Not only does it take off some of the pressure to get everything done, I find that making crème brûlée a day in advance allows the flavor to develop a little bit.

For longer storage, I recommend freezing. You can cover each individual top or place all the custards into an airtight container and store up to 6 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge – do NOT use a microwave to defrost it.

When I make creme brulee for my husband and I, two go in the fridge for dessert now and two go in the freezer for dessert later. No matter how you choose to store it, you’ll want to brûlée the topping just before serving.

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A ramekin of pumpkin spice creme brulee on a blue plate

Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée

Yield: 4 Crème Brûlées
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Creamy and dreamy, this Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée features a custard filling laced with pumpkin spice and a layer of perfectly brûléed sugar on top. This decadent fall dessert is easier to make than you think!

Ingredients

Custard

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Crème Brûlée Topping

  • 5 tablespoons white sugar - divided

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 300ºF. Boil water for the water bath, preferably in a tea kettle for easy pouring. Place four 6-oz custard cups or ramekins into a 8x8 or 9x9 square pan. 
  2. Separate egg yolks from the whites, reserving the whites for another recipe.
  3. Whisk together brown sugar and egg yolks in a medium sized bowl until it takes on a thick, creamy texture. Add the pumpkin spice and vanilla, then whisk to combine.
  4. Heat cream and milk over medium heat until bubbles start to form at the edge and the cream gets hot. Stir occasionally and do not let it boil. About 5 minutes.
  5. Temper the egg yolks by slowly adding about 1/4 cup of the hot milk and cream into the egg yolk mixture, while whisking constantly. Once incorporated repeat with another 1/4 cup of the milk and cream. Then add the custard mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk and cream. Whisk to combine completely. Adding the hot cream too quickly to the egg yolks will result in scrambled eggs.
  6. Strain mixture, preferably into a large measuring cup with a pour spout. Discard any lumps of cooked egg from the strainer.
  7. Divide the custard mixture equally between the custard cups. Create the water bath by pouring the boiling water into the pan until it's half way up the side of the custard cups. Careful not to pour water into the custard.
  8. 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. 
  9. 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.
  10. 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. Serve immediately.

    Notes

    Creme brulees can be stored in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for longer storage. If frozen, do not use a microwave to defrost, place in the fridge instead. Brulee the tops just before serving. For thicker crackly tops, use more sugar on the top.

    Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 497Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 296mgSodium: 87mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 1gSugar: 29gProtein: 6g

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

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