Creme Brûlée Cake – Layers of vanilla bean cake baked on a graham cracker crust, filled with vanilla bean custard and covered in a vanilla bean buttercream.

Creme Brûlée Cake: vanilla bean cake layers baked on a graham cracker crust, filled with vanilla bean custard and covered in a vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #cake #cremebrulee #cremebruleecake #cakerecipe #vanillabeancake #vanillacake

Creme Brûlée Cake

So let’s get right to it and start talking about this Creme Brûlée Cake! The idea for this was prompted by my friend Metta and her husband Clair. Metta loves creme brûlée and Clair has been begging me to “torch” a cake since I met him a few years ago. Good news for both of them, this cake covers both of those things!

Creme Brûlée Cake: vanilla bean cake layers baked on a graham cracker crust, filled with vanilla bean custard and covered in a vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #cake #cremebrulee #cremebruleecake #cakerecipe #vanillabeancake #vanillacake

Graham Cracker Crust

I know a traditional creme brûlée doesn’t have any kind of crust, but I’ve had one before that used a graham cracker crust and it was heavenly. Plus, you know how much I like a little crunch and texture in my cakes! For this cake, I used my graham cracker crust that you’ve seen in other cakes like my Ultimate S’mores Cake and my Coconut Key Lime Pie Cake. The one difference in this recipe is that I added a little instant coffee to it. Now, that’s totally optional, but I promise you, the hint of coffee flavoring paired with the vanilla bean is out-of-this-world incredible! If you don’t drink coffee for religious reasons (which is me), you can use decaf coffee granules, a coffee flavored extract or Pero, a coffee substitute. I just think you’ll love the flavor balance it brings to the cake.

How to Stack a Cake with a Soft Filling

Similar to other cakes I’ve made, my Creme Brûlée Cake has a soft filling and needs to be assembled properly so you don’t end up with a giant mess and tears running down your face (been there, done that – here to make sure you don’t).

After you’ve applied your crumb coat, freeze your cake for about 15 minutes.

How to Decorate the Creme Brulee Cake

Continue frosting your cake with the remaining vanilla buttercream. Once you’ve done this, freeze your cake for another 15 minutes.

Storing the Creme Brûlée Cake

Once you’ve finished decorating the cake, and if you plan to serve it the same day, store it in an airtight container or cake box in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. If you’re making the cake several days in advance, don’t add the brûléed sugar and store in the freezer.

Creme Brûlée Cake: vanilla bean cake layers baked on a graham cracker crust, filled with vanilla bean custard and covered in a vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #cake #cremebrulee #cremebruleecake #cakerecipe #vanillabeancake #vanillacake

How to Make Homemade Custard

This custard filling is incredibly delicious and not hard to make if you follow the instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Place an 8″x8″ baking pan in a 9″x13″ baking pan. You’ll be adding water to the larger pan later to create a bath for the custard to cook in – so you’re looking for a pan that is larger than the baking pan that you’ll have the custard in.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of the heavy cream with the vanilla bean paste and the sugar. Turn the stove to medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • After the cream has steeped, stir in the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream.
  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly add about ¼ cup of the heavy cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking continuously while you do so. This is how you temper the eggs. Once the eggs are tempered, slowly add the egg mixture to the remaining cream, stirring continuously while doing so.
  • Strain the custard through a mesh strainer and then pour the strained custard into your 8″x8″ baking pan. Carefully pour hot water into the larger baking pan that the small baking pan is sitting in. You want enough water to go about half way up the side of the baking dish.
  • Bake the custard for about 45 to 50 minutes. The center should be barely set. Let cool at room temperature for 2 hours and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. I think the custard is best made one or two days before you’re ready to assemble the cake.
Creme Brûlée Cake: vanilla bean cake layers baked on a graham cracker crust, filled with vanilla bean custard and covered in a vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #cake #cremebrulee #cremebruleecake #cakerecipe #vanillabeancake #vanillacake

I have no doubt this cake will become one of your favorites like it has for me!

Other Cakes You’ll Love

Creme Brûlée Cake

4.79 from 41 votes
Vanilla bean cake layers baked on a graham cracker crust with vanilla bean custard and vanilla bean buttercream.

Ingredients
 

FOR THE GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST

  • 3 cups (about 360 g) finely ground graham cracker crumbs , (about 27 whole rectangular crackers)
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee granules, alternatives: espresso granules, coffee extract, or coffee substitute: Pero

FOR THE CAKE

  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature (save the extra yolks for the custard filling)
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. (13 g) vanilla bean paste, I use THIS
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. (10 g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp. (5 g) salt
  • 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk, room temperature

FOR THE CUSTARD

  • 2 cups (462 g) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. (4 g) vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 5 egg yolks, from large eggs (save the extra whites to make the cake)
  • pinch of salt

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter, slightly cold
  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 1 tbsp (13 g) vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup (57 g) heavy whipping cream
  • pinch of salt
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra ½ batch.

Instructions
 

FOR THE CRUST

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray and then line with parchment. Spray again. Set aside.
  • In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and coffee granules, if using. Stir until all the graham cracker crumbs are damped by the melted butter.
  • Divide evenly between the three pans (about 8 ounces in each 8-inch or 6 ounces in each 6-inch) and press down firmly with your hand or the back of a spoon.
  • Bake for 6-8 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool while you make the cake batter. 

FOR THE CAKE

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar for two minutes on medium-high speed.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg whites on medium speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between addition.
  • Add the sour cream and vanilla bean paste and beat until incorporated, about one minute.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, followed by ½ cup of the buttermilk. Repeat the additions, ⅓ cup flour mixture, ½ cup buttermilk and the final ⅓ cup flour mixture. Only mix until the flour mixture is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again for another 20 to 30 seconds on low.
  • Pour about 18 ounces of cake batter into each of the three 8-inch cake pans (on top of the crust) or 13 ounces in each of the 6-inch pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes – until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Let cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. (Tip: spray your wire cooling racks with nonstick spray).

FOR THE CUSTARD

  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Place an 8"x8" baking pan in a 9"x13" baking pan. You'll be adding water to the larger pan later to create a bath for the custard to cook in – so you're looking for a pan that is larger than the baking pan that you'll have the custard in.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of the heavy cream with the vanilla bean paste and the sugar. Turn the stove to medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • After the cream has steeped, stir in the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream.
  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly add about ¼ cup of the heavy cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking continuously while you do so. This is how you temper the eggs. Once the eggs are tempered, slowly add the egg mixture to the remaining cream, stirring continuously while doing so.
  • Strain the custard through a mesh strainer and then pour the strained custard into your 8"x8" baking pan. Carefully pour hot water into the larger baking pan that the small baking pan is sitting in. You want enough water to go about half way up the side of the baking dish.
  • Bake the custard for about 45 to 50 minutes. The center should be barely set. Let cool at room temperature for 2 hours and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. I think the custard is best made one or two days before you're ready to assemble the cake.

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy and pale in color.
  • With the mixer on slow, gradually add the powdered sugar, followed by the heavy cream, vanilla bean paste and pinch of salt.
  • Once all of the ingredients are combined, turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for a couple minutes more.
  • Before using the buttercream, make sure to beat it by hand with a wooden spoon or large spatula to help push out the air pockets.

ASSEMBLY

  • Level each cake layer, if needed, and then place the first cake layer, graham cracker side down, on a cake board.
  • Using a piping bag, pipe a rim of buttercream around the edge of the cake.
  • Fill the center of this area with 1 cup of the custard.
  • Place the second cake layer on top of the filling and repeat steps 2 and 3.
  • Place the final cake layer, graham cracker side down, on the second layer of filling. Carefully apply a thin layer of buttercream around the entire cake. This is the crumb coat. Freeze the crumb coated cake for about 15 minutes.
  • Once the crumb coat is set, continue frosting the cake with the remaining buttercream.
  • OPTIONAL: Freeze the cake for another 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle a layer of granulated sugar over the top of the cake and use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. Serve right away or refrigerate, covered, until you're ready to serve.
Cuisine Cake
Course Dessert
Keyword Creme Brulee Cake

Courtney Rich

I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake.

I long ago ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to bake that kind of cake – and I’m here to teach you just that!

Get my free cake decorating guide
Everything you need to know about decorating a cake like a pro!

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Comments

  1. All I can say is WOW!! This is a must try. Creme Brûlée is my all time favorite indulgence and this just adds another option. Although I use graham cracker crumbs in crust recipes, it’s not my favorite flavor. Would a Biscoff cookie crumb be ok to use or would it be too overpowering of a flavor? Thank you for all your coaching and encouragement. So much fun.

    1. 5 stars
      Can’t wait to make this cake. I do have a question about the vanilla paste. If I cant find where I live can I use a extract?

  2. This cake looks so amazing. A side note, several times I have tried signing up for your emails and am unable to do it. I am not sure what I am doing wrong.

  3. Do you think this cake could be used as a stacked wedding cake? I’m making my daughters cake in May, but I haven’t decorated or made a wedding cake in like 25 Years, so I feel like a newbie at everything. Maybe you have a better suggestion on a cake flavor for us?

    1. Cakes with a soft filing like this isn’t a great idea for a stacked wedding cake. You can use the cake layers but only put frosting in the middle so it stays nice and sturdy.

  4. 5 stars
    I have all the components ready to go for tomorrow to put this cake together for our super bowl party. My only fear….I won’t have enough vanilla bean custard for the filling…I couldn’t stop eating it, it’s SO good! As is everything thing else, can’t wait to put all these yummy flavors together.

  5. 5 stars
    I haven’t yet made this cake but was considering doing vanilla bean cheesecake instead of cake layers. Do you think the cheesecake flavor will work with the rest of the flavors?

  6. I’m so excited to make this cake. In the past I haven’t loved baking the graham onto the cake layers so I usually make it as a crumble to go into the layers. Do you think that will work for this cake? Or do you think it’s important to have it as Is as a good stabilizer for the cake and custard?

  7. Question on the sugar measurements: the crust and filling both call for 1/2c of sugar, but in the crust it calls for 100g in the custard 150g?

  8. Just made the cake layers and the graham cracker crust is a bit crumbly as I took it out of the pans so now the edges are not smooth. Also the edges of my cake are a lot darker than yours. I took it out of the oven when the toothpick had a few moist crumbs and I use fat daddios pans. Any tips?

  9. Looks amazing! Is this a cake that could be turned into a sheet cake like you’ve talked about in the past with others? I want the flavors, without the fuss.

  10. Could this cake be frozen after the “crumb coat” step for an extended length of time? I don’t need a cake at the moment but do need an activity to distract during these crazy times:)

  11. 5 stars
    My custard does not end up as stiff as yours, mine is a lot runnier. What should I do different?

  12. If you store in the freezer, how long until it is able to be served after you move it to the fridge?

  13. It seems like you only use a tiny bit of the custard in the piping bag to pipe the rings between layers. What do you do with the extra?

  14. I made this cake last night for my Dad’s birthday today but I’m having some worries if it turned out ok or if I need to remake it.

    It didn’t raise very high as it baked. I made your Funfetti cake a couple of weeks ago and it raised to the top of the pans. This cake didn’t. I followed the directions to the letter and my baking powder is good until 2022.
    Any insights?

    I love following you!

  15. 5 stars
    I made this cake for Christmas dinner and it was an ABSOLUTE HIT. Buttercream was too sweet but all in all the flavours complimented each other so well it was a simple vanilla creamy biscuity party in my mouth!

  16. 5 stars
    I’ve been wanting to make this ever since you first posted it. Finally got around to it for New Year’s Eve and it was incredible! The cake, the custard, the graham cracker crust, all delicious and when you put them together, you get one of the best cakes I’ve ever had! Rave reviews all around.

  17. Do you recommend letting the cake get to room temperature after it’s been sitting in the fridge before slicing into it? If so, how long?

  18. Could I torch sugar on top of each layer? Also, could I make on sheet pan and cut out circles for 3 mini layer cakes?

      1. What size sheet pan do you recommend? Also does anything in the recipe need to be altered to make it 12 three layer mini cakes?

  19. 5 stars
    Wow!! My first time using a recipe from your site and it was the best cake I’ve ever had! My first time using graham cracker crust with a cake and it was life changing! The cake was moist and soft and the filling was a perfect custard! Will be using your recipes from now on 🙂

    1. Take it out of the freezer the morning of and put in the fridge for a couple hours. Then bring out to room temp.

  20. 5 stars
    This took me a little bit of time to make but the result was fantastic! Everyone was impressed and not a crumb was left on anyone’s plate. Thank you for creating and sharing this wonderful recipe.

  21. Can’t wait to try this. When making the custard I know you remove from heat and let the cream, sugar, vanilla mixture steep for 10 min. However for the next few steps of adding the next cup of heavy cream, tempering the eggs and adding it all back into the pot is this all still done off of heat?

  22. 5 stars
    This recipe was delicious! I made the mistake of not reading through the whole thing and underestimated how much time it would take. Plan on two days. Personal preference- I’d probably cut the Graham cracker layer in half for each layer. It was a little thick next to the cake… and I love me a good Graham cracker crust.

    Courtney does it again! So delicious!

  23. Hi Courtney!

    I’m wanting to make this cake and I have some fresh vanilla pods I’d love to use for it, especially for the custard filling in the middle. Any idea what the ratio would be if I wanted to use some? Even if it was half vanilla pod, half vanilla bean paste? Thanks in advance!

  24. 5 stars
    I made this cake over 2 days and it was worth every minute! Everyone who had a slice said it was the best cake they ever had. My only word of wisdom is to ensure the buttercream rim in between each layer is thick enough and around the edge enough. Mine was a bit too thin so didn’t stick as good as I hoped. Still obsessed. Would love more graham cracker crust recipes because everyone raved about it!

  25. If I were to freeze the cake layers wrapped in saran individually before assembling on a morning morning to serve that night, would I just frost straight from the freezer and keep in the fridge that day? Or how would you recommend doing it?

  26. 5 stars
    Fabulous cake! I have made several cakes and love all of Courtney’s recipes. She changes how people feel about cake. I have made this cake several times and people rave about it and still talks about it over a year later. I believe it’s how Courtney brings in all the textures and flavors to a cake. I absolutely love Courtney’s recipes and feel fortunate that she decided to share her talents!

  27. 5 stars
    Just made this for my 2 year wedding anniversary and the family went crazy over it! This is a new favorite in our house! Thank you!!

  28. 5 stars
    The BEST cake ever! Thanks-you so much for sharing this fantastic recipe. I loved the easy to follow instructions and tips. The flavour and texture were out of this world and a big crowd pleaser. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

  29. 1 star
    Sorry. I wanted to love this much. My husband loves creme brulee and he requested a creme brulee cake for his birthday. I was so excited to find this recipe. Unfortunately, the buttercream started to fall under the weight of the top two layers while stacking. I quickly got it in the fridge and saved it. I recommend putting the buttercream ring and refrigerate between each layer….but worse than that the cake was blah. My husband said the custard was good but not the cake and I make a cake like every month following some other bakers so I regret not using a vanilla cake I have tested myself. Maybe it was baker error on my part, but this wasn’t a success when so many of my other cakes have been

  30. 3 stars
    Followed everything to a T and still end up with dry a cake! 😩 All ingredients at room temperature and even timed how long I mixed the ingredients. I’m not sure where it went wrong!

    1. I would say it’s likely the baking time. Your oven may run a little hot and your cake needs less time. I’d suggest reducing the baking time by a few minutes.

  31. 4 stars
    I halved this recipe for 2 6” layers. The Graham cracker crust was too thick and hard- I would suggest halving it again to get a thinner crust on a 6” diameter cake. I also honestly didn’t really taste the espresso powder I added. However, the custard and the cake were delicious and the flavors of the grahams with the vanilla were fantastic. I put more custard on the top of my cake and brûléed the top so there would be a classic crunch as the knife cut into it. That was a great added texture as well.

    I used a SMBC instead of the vanilla American buttercream and it was nice to have a light, less-sweet frosting.

  32. 5 stars
    My husband is wild about crème brûlée so when I found this recipe I had to try it out. Despite cursing at the recipe several times (primarily because I hadn’t bothered to look closely at it until the last minute and was outraged at my own procrastination) this recipe created a DELICIOUS cake that I consumed in five hours. Did I let the custard chill for the recommended four hours? No. Was it still amazing? Yes. No need for adding sugar on top, the graham crusts add that much loved burnt sugar flavor and texture. The frosting too is just, chef kiss. And I don’t like buttercream. My husband loved it and requested it for every birthday going forward.

  33. I want to do this type of flavoring but with different frosting on top. Is that okay, will the cake be too fragile?