In French, “Créme brûlée” means “burnt creame”. It is a thick pudding
base of cream (what you call custard) and eggs topped by a delicate layer
of caramelized sugar.
During the Middle Ages, the sweet almost pudding–like substance we now known as custard is used as filling and binder for other fillings in the flans and tarts. Custard comes from Latin “crustade”, which is a tart with a crust. Ancient Roman cooks were the first to discover the binding properties of eggs, and they became experts at creating egg–based dishes.
The exact origin of the classic dish of smooth custard with burnt sugar on top is unknown, but the earliest known reference to this dish is in François Massialot’s cookbook dated from 1691. Some also believe it’s from Trinity College in Cambridge, England back in 1600’s. At that time, it was called Cambridge burnt cream or Trinity cream (still know locally as Cambridge burnt Cream or Trinity Cream). Starting from the early 18th century, most people now refer to the dessert as créme brûlée.
The popularity of créme brûlée have increased significantly. The traditional method of cooking this type of custard has evolved many flavor variations like caramel, lemon, and liqueur. Consumers can now make this at home by purchasing ramekins, or ceramic containers. So they can serve this elegant serving piece to their guests at the comfort of home.