use a culinary or kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar topping

Decadent Passion Fruit Creme Brulee

by | Feb 29, 2024

This passion fruit crème brulee is everything you love about traditional crème brulee, yet infused with just a touch of tropical flavor. If you’ve never tasted passion fruit, I have to admit that there’s really nothing to describe the flavor. Passion fruit has a citrus tang (a tart profile) and yet is sweet and floral at the same time.

Before I continue, passion fruit is an amazing vine that can be grown in mild winter climates (typically zones 8 and above). I have lots of information on growing, propagating, harvesting, and storing passionfruit on the blog if you are interested in adding this valuable crop to your garden. For my area of Southern California, passion fruit starts to ripen later in the Summer (I originally made this dish in September), but there are also passion fruit that hang around through Winter—they just ripen more slowly.

Notes on Making Creme Brulee Ahead

The idea for this passion fruit crème brulee recipe came about because some friends invited us to a small dinner party. For some reason, I always end up being assigned dessert! Hopefully this means that everyone in the group thinks I make good desserts. Either that, or they’re scared of eating my entrees! At the time, it was passion fruit season here in Southern California, so I knew that whatever I threw together would need to have some passion fruit flavor. Thankfully, I stumbled on this incredible recipe on Bryan Talbott’s YouTube channel. Now, I had never made crème brulee before!

If you want to make creme brulee ahead of an event, you can simply bake your creme brulees and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to torch them and serve. Another thing to keep in mind is that creme brulee needs to be served soon after the sugar has been caramelized on top, or that top coating won’t stay crunchy.

Creme brulee may not be great for large gatherings where you will have to spend lots of time torching your desserts, but it would be a fun activity if serving a small group or having a special dinner at home. I made six passion fruit crème brulees and chilled them ahead of time, and then waited until after dinner to sprinkle sugar on top and torch them.

ripe purple passion fruit have vibrant orange pulp

The dinner party was in September, so it was right around the time that passion fruit starts to ripen here in Southern California. Of course, I immediately started searching for passion fruit creme brulee recipes!

What Makes the Perfect Creme Brulee?

I may not have had previous experience making creme brulee, but I’ve eaten a lot of creme brulees in my life. Honestly, I’m pretty picky about them. See, the perfect crème brulee IMHO has a good ratio of caramelized sugar topping to the actual cream custard—-I don’t like super deep dishes for this reason. Also, the caramelized sugar on top needs to be hard—so I can tap it with a spoon and break it into delicious sugar pieces. Furthermore, the custard needs to be creamy, not too watery or too eggy.

To be honest, my first time making this, during every step, I was convinced I had ruined this crème brulee. No joke, I get why people often say to avoid trying a new dish for guests without testing it first. Imagine how nervous I was not being able to taste this, or even know how the texture was, until I served it! Thankfully, we were with friends, so we all kind of joked about how we didn’t know if this would be good.

In the end, this passion fruit crème brulee was the best I’ve ever had—and the passion fruit flavor was neither overwhelming nor too subtle.

It’s all About Technique!

Making crème brulee successfully is mostly about technique. In fact, every step of the process requires careful attention—it’s not one of those mix-it-and-leave-it desserts! For example, you don’t want to overheat or boil the cream mixture, and you need to temper your egg yolks properly. If these phrases scare you, never fear! I’ve got you.

Additionally, cooking the creme mixture until it slightly jiggles in the center is crucial. Truthfully, your crème brulee will most likely taste good no matter what—it’s all that cream and sugar!—but if you really want to nail that comforting, elegant texture, then just practice!

Lastly, torching the sugar on top of the crème brulee can be a little bit of an art. Like I said, making crème brulee is very much about technique over specific ingredients!

Passion Fruit Creme Brulee Ingredients:

Makes 2 or 3 ramekins, depending on size (mine are 6 ounce ramekins but not available online) *original recipe from Bryan Talbott

1.5 Cups Heavy Cream

3 Large egg yolks

3 TBS passion fruit pulp

1 TBS Vanilla extract

1/4 cup white granulated sugar

Additional 1-3 TBS granulated sugar to caramelize on top later

Supplies you might want:

A kitchen or culinary torch *ours is no longer available, but similar to this.

oven safe creme brulee ramekins *ours aren’t online, but in my dreams I’d get these gorgeous (and pricey) ones from France.

Start With Making the Custard/Cream

While this is cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add your heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and passionfruit pulp to a medium saucepan and heat gently. You want this mixture to reach about 200 degrees. Whisk occasionally as it cooks.

Once your mixture is about 200 degrees F, turn off the heat. You don’t want the mixture to be boiling. It can take around 7-10 minutes for this step.

In a separate mixing bowl (large enough to hold all the liquid in this recipe) crack the eggs yolks into the bowl and whisk to mix. Now it’s time to temper the egg yolks with our passion fruit crème brulee mixture. Tempering is essential because it brings the temperature of the eggs up slowly—-if you just add hot liquid to the eggs all at once, the eggs with become scrambled.

This is where I go a little off the original recipe technique. I actually sieve the entire crème brulee mixture into a large, heat-safe measuring cup with a pour spout first. Personally, I found that putting the mixture through a sieve before tempering the eggs made it easier for me to do the next step without a sieve being in the way.

Next, take your crème brulee cream mixture (that has been strained) and pour just a little bit into the eggs while whisking to keep the temperature change gradual. Continue to gradually whisk in the rest of the custard/crem mixture. Voila! You’re now ready to cook your passion fruit crème brulees in the oven.

This is how the passion fruit creme brulee cream/custard looked before going in the oven. Mine did have some air bubbles on top, but those dissipated after going in the oven.

Cook the Crème Brulee in a Water Bathe

Make sure your oven is at 350 degrees.

At the same time, heat some water so you can add it to the cooking pan for a water bath (it doesn’t need to be boiling, just hot). Hot tap water also works, but using a tea kettle or something with a pour spout will be easier for the following steps.

Take a shallow baking dish and place each ramekin in to see if it fits and sits flat. Next, fill each ramekin evenly with your cream/custard mixture using a ladle or spoon.

Place the baking dish in the oven on the middle rack.

Next, take your hot water and gently pour it into the baking dish AROUND the ramekins. You want the water level to be about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Cook the crème brulee until slightly jiggly in the centers. You don’t want the center to be liquid. This can take 30-45 minutes but will vary depending on the size of your baking dishes. Most of my batches take about 40 minutes. Also, your crème brulee will set more as it sits and cools.

Finally, be really careful when removing your baking dish from the oven. Don’t let the water slosh around! Leave the ramekins out of the oven, in the water bathe, for about twenty minutes and then remove them from the water bath. Once they have cooled enough, put them in the fridge for 2-3 hours at least!

gently pouring hot water around the custard for baking

This water bath technique is common for a lot of custard type desserts. I’ve done with before with flan and cheesecake, but this was my first time making creme brulee!

Torching a Creme Brulee

For some, this might be the most intimidating part.  Our friends had an old culinary torch that they had literally never used! All I had to do was purchase some butane canisters that go with the culinary torch because it didn’t come with any. The culinary torch we used for the passion fruit crème brulee isn’t available anymore, but this one is very similar.

Sprinkle about 1 TBS of sugar over the top of your creme brulee. You do want to make sure there’s enough sugar over the top to create a “crust” versus just droplets of burnt sugar, but the exact amount of sugar can be different depending on your ramekin size.

When it comes to the actual act of caramelizing the sugar before serving, I learned something very important. The strength and quality of the torch is going to effect your approach! For instance, our culinary torch is super cheap and weak, so I had to get in closer than I expected to melt the sugar. A friend of mine (who is an incredible cook) told me to start with the torch farther away from the sugar than you’d expect, and then gradually move in closer as you see how it works. Also, move the torch back and forth in small strokes instead of staying in one spot as you go. Make sure you’re torching the sugar though, and not focusing on the edges of the ramekin because you don’t want to heat that.  Lastly, the process of caramelizing the sugar happens fast, and the sugar will cook slightly more once you remove the torch. Stop the torch when the sugar starts to turn golden and bubble.  It sounds a little intimidating, but if I can do it, you can!

here are the stages of adding sugar on top of the creme brulee and torching the top into a golden brown

I know that making creme brulee can seem intimidating, but I’ve done this now three times and it’s been so good every time. And remember, I made these passion fruit creme brulee for the first time for friends (I recommend practicing first).

Bon Appetit!

Enjoy Your hard work!

Let the crème brulee cool down after melting the sugar. As the sugar cools, it will harden into that traditional crust that you can tap with a spoon. Be aware that the ramekin edges might be hot too!

What I love most about this passion fruit creme brulee recipe is the slight tropical floral flavor you get from the passion fruit. This dessert feels especially glamorous and decadent! Remember, one of my biggest goals for this blog was to honor seasonal ingredients and inspire others to grow their own food. So, if you’re interested in learning to grow passion fruit in your backyard, be sure to read my growing tips too! Bon appetit!


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Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

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