Vendredi Vocab: Crème Brûlée

By: Cecily Gamba

Vendredi means “Friday” in French. Each week we add something new to our culinary vocabulary by delving into a word from our menu.

This week, we will delve into: Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée, just the name itself is beautiful and indulgent, a perfect moniker for this creamy and luscious dessert. So, what exactly is it? For those that haven’t had the pleasure of dipping into a crème brûlée, the name translates from French to mean “burnt cream.” It is a custard with a hard caramelized shell coating on the top. It is a mixture of (generally) vanilla-infused cream, egg yolks, and sugar, with more sugar on top. A great crème brûlée has a silky custard that has been thoroughly set and chilled before caramelization. The crunchy top coat of sugar is usually caramelized with a blowtorch, quickly melting the sugar without heating the custard underneath.

Lavender Crème Brûlée from the girl & the fig

This dessert is so delicious, that it has 3 different countries fighting over its origin. Though commonly referred to as a French dessert, France, England, and Spain all claim to have created the first version of this tasty treat.

The first recordings of crème brûlée are French, and dated back to 1691, in François Massialot's cookbook Cuisinier royal et bourgeois. Early French versions of the dish placed a prepared caramel disc on top of the custard, rather than burning the caramel on, and were generally served cold.

Crema Catalana, image via

In Catalonia, ‘crema catalana’ is strikingly similar to crème brûlée, in that it is a rich custard served with caramelized sugar, but this wasn’t recorded until the 18th century. This is served with a cold base and hot topping.

Cambridge University’s Trinity College also claims to have dreamt up the dessert, saying that in the 17th century, a student came up with “Trinity Burned Cream,” which had the college crest burnt into sugar on top of custard, thick and unsweetened. The kitchens at Trinity College are still known for making this dish today.

Trinity Burned Cream, image via

Now that you know all about this dessert, it only makes sense for you to try it. Join us at the girl & the fig for our Lavender Crème Brûlée! One quick rap of your spoon and a cracked shell later, you’ll be digging into one of our most popular desserts for a sweet ending to your meal.


Vendredi means “Friday” in French. Each week we add something new to our culinary vocabulary by delving into a word from our menu. We love food, we love words, and we love to learn something new. We also love Fridays.

Happy Vendredi, everyone!

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