Opposites attract in this elegant Valentine's Day dessert: while the vanilla custard is delicate and creamy, the espresso-inflected caramel sauce comes on with stronger flavors. One silky spoonful, and you'll agree they bring out the best in each other.

Martha Stewart Living, January/February 2021


Credit: Jenny Huang

Recipe Summary test

20 mins
3 hrs 5 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • In a small saucepan, stir together 1/4 cup sugar, pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon water. Cover and cook, without stirring, over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove lid; continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until amber, about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; carefully stir in coffee (mixture will bubble).

  • When bubbling subsides, pour caramel into a 3-cup ceramic dish, or divide between two 4-inch ramekins. Tilt to completely coat bottom and halfway up sides. Let cool completely at room temperature, about 30 minutes.

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Scrape vanilla seeds into a clean small saucepan; add vanilla pod, half and half, and 1/4 cup sugar. Heat over medium until bubbles form around edges; remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk together eggs and yolk, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Slowly whisk into hot half-and-half mixture. Strain through a sieve.

  • Pour into dish coated with caramel. Place in a roasting pan on center rack of oven; add boiling water to reach halfway up sides of custard dish. Bake until custard is set around edges and still slightly jiggly in center, 35 to 40 minutes.

  • Remove dish from water bath and let cool completely, then refrigerate, uncovered, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Run a thin, flexible knife around edge of crème caramel to release it. Place a serving plate on top, flip to unmold, and serve.