Key Lime Creme Brûlée

Back in the 90's I feel you could find creme brûlée in almost every restaurant. I'm not sure why it fell out of favor. It's hands down one of my favorite desserts, easy to make and has a long shelf life in respect to homemade desserts. In case you've lived under a dessert free rock for many years and never had creme brûlée let me explain how this dessert makes me feel.

Creme brûlée starts with a sheet of caramelized sugar that sings the most beautiful crackle when it meets your spoon for the first time. Underneath you will find a velvety, rich custard that will make you close your eyes and savor every spoonful with pure contentment.

Traditionally, creme brûlée is made with a vanilla custard. A Bell House favorite is the decedent coffee creme brûlée, which you can find that recipe on the Double Date night: Cocktails, Carbonara and Creme Brûlée post.

In this post, I made a key lime creme brûlée. All three flavors have their place at the dessert table. This one brings a little zing to your taste buds.

Don't let the name intimidate you into thinking it's a dessert that can only be made by those most skilled in the kitchen. Creme Brûlée is an uncomplicated dessert to prepare.

However, you can't throw this dessert together at the last minute. This has to be made in advance for the custard to set, at least 1 day up to 5 days before you want to serve it.


Key Lime Creme Brûlée:

2 1/4 cups of heavy cream

3/4 cup of vitamin D milk

2 tablespoons of key lime juice, Nellie and Joe's is a good one if you can't find key limes

6 key limes, zested*

8 egg yolks, save the whites for breakfast or the marshmallow frosting recipe you can find on the BELL-VI-DEO page (click here).

3/4 cup of sugar, plus more for caramelizing

1/4 teaspoon salt

*If you can't find key limes, you can use the zest of 1 lime. Just keep in mind there will be a slight difference in the flavor profile. I have never had a problem finding key limes at Giant Foods.


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place 6-4 ounce ramekins in a large cake pan. I use a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.


In a large saucepan, combine the cream, milk and key lime zest. Scald the cream over medium-high heat. To “scald” the milk is to bring the milk almost to a boil. You are looking for bubbles to start forming around the edges of the pan. Do not boil!


Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks while whisking constantly. You are tempering the eggs so they do not scramble. To “temper” the eggs is to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs. This will prevent the eggs from scrambling when you add hot liquid. Whisk until all the cream has been incorporated and add the key lime juice and salt.


Strain the egg and cream mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher or a liquid measuring cup. This process keeps the lumps out, but in the case of key lime creme brûlée, this will also take the zest out. Scrape some of the zest back into the custard and then divide the custard evenly among the ramekins.


Pour hot water into the baking pan to reach the tops of the custards. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and CAREFULLY place the pan in the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes and check for doneness. You are looking for the custard to jiggle like Jell-O.  Add another few minutes to the time if needed.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven and discard the foil. Let the pan cool until you are able to transfer the ramekins to a cooling rack. Cool completely, cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days.


When you are ready to brûlée these puppies, sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar over the custards. Use a kitchen torch to burn all of the sugar.

PREPARATION TIP:If you don't have a kitchen torch, preheat your broiler on high. Place the custards about two inches from the broiler. Don’t walk away! Close the oven door and when the sugar starts to melt and turn brown, remove the custards from the oven and turn off the boiler.

You can caramelize the sugar a few hours in advance. However, if you aren't going to use all 6 in one night, wait to caramelize the ones you will not eat. The sugar will become ooey, gooey and not in a good way.