Baked Custard

Bain-marie Baked Custard (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Umm, baked custard, it is one of the most comforting sweet treats. Easy to whip up with just a few ingredients, custard makes for a great make-ahead dessert. Steamed or baked, it’s good both ways.

The custard can be baked 2 ways – in a bain-marie (a water bath) or dry, as in the dish containing the custard is simply placed on a sheet pan and baked. The difference is in the texture and crust. Custard cooked in a bain-marie tends to be creamier with a very thin layer of crust at the top.

On the other hand a custard baked dry tends to form a somewhat thicker crust at the top and browns all around – at the sides and bottom of the custard, creating really yummy bits for eating pleasure. The texture could be firmer than the bain-marie cooked custard but it can be controlled if you remove the custard from the oven just before it is done cooking so that the carry-over heat can finish cooking the custard outside of the oven. Like I said, either way works great.

For this recipe, I’ll give you 3 options for cooking – steamed, bain-marie and dry.

Custard is primarily made of 3 ingredients – milk, eggs and sugar. The basic custard mixture can be flavoured with spices, citrus zest or extracts/essences.


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Freshly grated nutmeg


For steaming:

Steamed Cardamom (elaichi) Custard (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
  1. Add enough water to a large pot for steaming and set steamer in the pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together all the ingredients and pour it through a sieve. Ladle the custard into a 1-liter heatproof bowl or into 4 regular-sized ramekins or similar bowls.
  3. Sprinkle with a dusting of nutmeg.
  4. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and steam for 20 – 25 minutes or until the custard no longer jiggles. Carefully remove from steamer and cool.
  5. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate overnight and serve cold.

For bain-marie:

Bain-marie Baked Custard (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Set a kettle of water on the stove to boil.
  3. Get a large, deep baking pan in which the bowl or bowls of custard can sit comfortably.
  4. Whisk together the ingredients for the custard, pass through a sieve and pour the mixture into a 1-litre baking dish or ramekins. Sprinkle with a dusting of nutmeg Transfer the bowl/bowls to the baking dish. Carefully pour the boiling water into the pan to come up to the sides of the bowl/bowls and transfer to the oven.
  5. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until the middle when lightly touched is soft but not watery. Shut off the heat and remove pan from the oven.
  6. Transfer the custard to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to serve cold.

For dry baking:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Whisk together the ingredients, pass through a sieve and pour into 1-litre bowl or ramekins. Assemble on baking sheet and sprinkle with a light dusting of nutmeg.
  4. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the centre jiggles slightly.
  5. Remove from oven and set on wire rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to serve cold.

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