Food History

Joined Jul 18, 2000
Does anyone know the history of creme brulee's? Was it a case of "oh no, you spilt sugar on the creme de ramekins, oh well, lets caramelise them and see if we can use them later"

or was it something much more intentional?

duh-dah dah.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Creme Brulee is French for rich custard baked with cream instead of milk.

"Creme" meaning "cream" is from the latin word "Chrisma" through the old Fench "cresme"

In english the dish is "Burnt cream" this term was used long ago at the begining of the 18th century, but the French term had already been used by Massialot in 1691 and has priority,although the french stopped using the term during the 19th century while the english people were adopting it for there own english term.

Creme Brulee is also called "Trinity Cream" because of it's association with Trinity collage,Cambridge where the collage creast was impressed on top on the cream with a branding iron.
Joined Jul 23, 2002
That's awesome info CC, but I think Nick is inquiring more about how it was invented not the meaning of the name. Not that I have any remote clue as to who or how it was create.
Joined Jul 18, 2000
i do apologise for the ambiguity of my post.

However, i am most impressed with the amount of information given to me by CC, and shall put it to good use.

The reason why i am trying to get this worked out is because i have been chosen to deliver a presentation for a documentary on Creme Brulee's and am just doing a little background research beyond the recipes.

Once again, Bravo Zulu for the info CC.


Nick S.
Joined Dec 30, 1999
Based on limited research, it appears to me it was a matter of marketing - making "burnt cream" sound better...

Often the etymology of the terms will lead to clues as to the origin and invention of the dish based on time, location, and culture.

cape chef's information comes from the Oxford Companion to Food :

About French creme
"Creme...In the French kitchen, there is no word to match the English kitchen, there is no word to match the English term custard', and creme has to fill the gap. The thin pouring-sauce type of custard is creme Anglaise. Creme patissiere is the equivalent of confectioner's custard, though the English term trends to denote a less rich kind than the French mixture. Creme patissiere is made from egg yolks, milk, cuagar, and a little flour, with vanilla or some other flavouring; the light version used in eclair fillings and Saint Honore also contains beaten egg whites."
----Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 225)

"Creme brulee is a French terms for a rich baked custard made with cream, rather than with milk. The Custard is topped with a layer of sugar (susally brown) which is then caramelized by use of a salamander or under a grill. Creme, meaning cream, is derived from the Latin "Chrisma" through the old French creme. The term brule is applied to dishes such as cream custards with are finished off with a caramelized sugar glaze. In English, the dish is Burnt cream. This term was in use as long ago as the beginning of the 18th century, but the French term had already been used by Massailot in 1691 and has priority, although it fell into disuse in France for a while in the 19th century...Creme brulee is also sometimes known as Trinity cream because of its association with Trinity College, Cambridge, where the college crest was impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 226)

According to Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child: Creme Brulee' originated at Christ's Church in Cambridge, England,

"Creme brulee is not, as you might think, one of the glories of French cuisine. Most food historians place the origin of creme brulee in England, a country where the words pudding and dessert are virtually synonymous. Something very like creme brulee has been around since at least the 17th century, much of that time in the dining hall at Trinity College, Cambridge."
Creme Brulee

"It was later given a French name. Burnt cream doesn't sound as romantic." Washington Post

"ETYMOLOGY:French, burnt cream : crme, cream + bržlŽe, burnt, feminine past participle of bržler, to burn." American Heritage¨ Dictionary

"We usually think of burnt cream as a French dish called creme brulee. However, recipes for burnt cream appear in many old English cookbooks dating back to the 18th Century. The caramel top was traditionally made using a "salamander"; a circular iron plate, heated to a high temperature and placed over the pudding to brown it."
Cooking with Anna

Good luck on your presentation, what other research are you doing and what other discoveries have you made?
Joined May 18, 2001
In some ways, Massailot's recipe for crème brulée better represents burnt cream because in called for a burning the top with red-hot piece of iron! Salmanders and blow-torches didn't exist in 1691!
Joined Jul 18, 2000
once again i thank everyone for their input.

The presentation went well, and was filmed in 1 take. The irony was that, in the weekend newspaper, there was a article on the same thing.

been a hectic week, so, again i express my gratitude for your help.


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