How to make Crema Catalana

How to make Crema Catalana - header

What is Crema Catalana?

Crema Catalana, also known as crema quemada (burnt cream) in Spanish,  is a dessert typical of the Spanish region of Catalonia. It is a baked, custard dish topped with caramelised sugar which although not great for the cholesterol levels does produce a unique and flavoursome taste. It is most similar to the better known French crème brûlée but with some important differences and you should never confuse the two for fear of upsetting those Catalans proud of their local cuisine. In the past it was traditionally served on Saint Joseph’s Day (March 19th) although today it is consumed throughout the year.

How to make Crema Catalana

Crema Catalana: through the ages

The noble tradition of the crema Catalana dates back to the Middle Ages with recipes being recorded as long ago as the 14th & 16th centuries. Legend also proclaims that Casanova sampled the dish when visiting Barcelona. The only notable evolution in the recipe since then has been the 20th century replacement of starch with corn flour as the thickening agent.

Classic ingredients & variants

The beauty of the dessert is in the simplicity of its ingredients, namely:

– egg yolks
– sugar
– corn flour (although wheat flour can be used)
– full fat milk (you can use semi-skimmed but the taste is effected)

And to aromatise the dish all you need is:

– lemon & orange zest
– cinnamon
– vanilla (optionally)


In Catalonia even frozen variations exist which are subsequently covered with egg yolk jam!

The main difference to crème brûlée is that the French dish is made with the whole egg (not just the yolk) and uses cream instead of milk. It is also prepared in a slightly different way as it is baked in the oven in a water bath resulting in a texture more similar to a flan.

Ania, Babur and his mum after making crema Catalana, Urgench,Uzbekistan

How to make Crema Catalana

1) grate the orange and lemon skin
2) mix 500ml milk, orange and lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla and bring to the boil, then leave for 15 minutes to settle
3) after 15 minutes, sieve the milk mixture, removing all the pieces
4) in a different dish separate egg yolks from whites
5) mix 7 egg yolks with 10g corn flour and 100g sugar and mix until pale and creamy
6) put the milk mixture back on the stove and wait until it nearly boils (don’t let it boil)
7) add the yolk & flour mixture to the milk mixture and whisk continuously for about 7 min
8) put it into clay dishes (or small oven dishes) and let it cool
9) cover the cream with 1 tablespoon of sugar
10) place the dishes in the over under the grill (or use a blow-torch) to brown the sugar

Bon profit!

written by: Jon

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