Spiced crème brûlée with coffee syrup

Instead of the traditional crunchy top, Tom Aikens adorns fragrant baked custard with a dark, sticky sauce
By Tom Aikens
Spiced crème brûlée with coffee syrup
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes plus infusing and chilling time
  • Effort: easy


For the custards

  • 375 ml double cream
  • 125 ml whole milk
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 star anise
  • ' tsp cloves
  • 1 cm ginger, sliced
  • 20 g liquorice root, sliced or broken
  • 2 vanilla pods, split and seeds scraped out
  • 75 g palm sugar, finely grated
  • 5 egg yolks

For the coffee syrup

  • 2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 200 ml water
  • 125 g sugar
  • lemon juice, to taste

Tips and Suggestions

You can use a variety of spices for this dish (cinnamon, star anise and juniper berries, for instance). In this recipe, the top is not 'brûléed' but you could dust each with sugar and caramelise the top under a grill or with a blowtorch if you prefer.


1. For the custards: pour the cream and milk into a medium saucepan and add the spices, liquorice and vanilla pod ' reserving the seeds. Heat until warm, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. For the coffee syrup: in a saucepan, slowly bring the coffee granules, water and sugar to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Continue cooking to reduce by at least two-thirds, the mixture will become a thick syrup. Pass through a sieve and add enough lemon juice to take the edge off the sweetness. Leave to cool, then set aside until ready to serve.

3. Whisk the palm sugar, egg yolks and reserved vanilla seeds together in a bowl, then whisk in the cooled cream. Leave this mixture for a day or overnight in the fridge.

4. The next day, preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/ gas 2.

5. Mix the custard mixture again and pass through a sieve to remove the spices. Take 4 ramekins, each 6cm in diameter and 4cm deep and place them in a deep roasting tin, and divide the custard mixture between them. Carefully pour enough boiled water from the kettle around the ramekins to come three quarters of the way up the sides. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until firm, but slightly wobbly in the middle. Cool briefly, then chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

6. Drizzle a little of the coffee syrup on top of each custard and serve.

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