My Kitchen From Scratch

Jamie Oliver’s Proper English Custard

Posted on: March 30, 2010

Proper English Custard

This is quite possibly one of my favourite desserts of all time. I’ve always appreciated a nice pint of frozen custard but making custard from scratch was something new to me. It started with my failed attempt to make nanaimo bars with real custard. It was very ambitious considering that the custard layer of a nanaimo bar is usually made out of custard flavoured buttercream. It is almost impossible to achieve the same consistency with real custard. Well, the custard didn’t turn out great either; it was simply not custard-y enough.

Bourbon Vanilla Bean

I tried the second time and it was perfect! I made this custard using Bourbon vanilla beans, which my foodie friend at A Series of Kitchen Experiments kindly gave some for me to try. Besides the heavenly smell of vanilla, the custard looks so much better with the hundreds of vanilla specks from the bean. Try some of her vanilla beans at I Heart Vanilla.

The warm custard was so smooth and velvety, I couldn’t wait for it to cool down. So I slowly sipped it in my whiskey glass. The weather was a little nippy so it was the perfect drink. I would serve this warm with some English pudding but I didn’t have any. When it was nice and cool the next morning, I drizzled the custard over a scoop of sorbet for breakfast (I’ll post it next time Check it out here). Jamie Oliver would have been so proud of me. =)

Ingredients (yields about 8 cups/2 L)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scored lengthways
  • 8 large egg yolks


  1. Mix cream, milk, and four tablespoons of sugar in a pot under medium low heat.
  2. Scrap out all the seeds in the vanilla bean into the pot. Put the beans in the pot as well. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon until it boils and then turn off the heat. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the vanilla infuse with the cream and milk mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks with 2 tablespoons of sugar until pale yellow in colour.
  4. Remove the beans from the pot and slowly add one ladle of the cream mixture to the yolks while whisking them together. Keep whisking and slowly add a couple more ladles. This process is called tempering and this will ensure that the eggs won’t curdle when they come in contact with hot liquids.
  5. Pour the yolk mixture back to the pot with cream and milk and stir with a wooden spoon under medium heat. As the eggs cook, the custard will thicken in several minutes. It is thick enough if it coats the back of the wooden spoon. When it’s nice and shiny, remove from heat and pour into a serving cup. You can serve it hot or cold.

(recipe adapted from “Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook” by Jamie Oliver)

Proper English Custard

Final Notes:

  1. Make sure the heat is not too low in step 5. Otherwise, it won’t thicken. I made the mistake for being too careful; I didn’t want the custard to curdle, so I heat it under very low heat. The outcome of the custard was rather disappointing.
  2. Vanilla is a good flavour to start but try other spices as well such as cinnamon or cardamom.
  3. Try another english custard recipe from Jamie Oliver magazine here. It’s a delicious hot marmalade pudding served with drambuie flavoured custard.

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27 Responses to "Jamie Oliver’s Proper English Custard"

[…] If the custard is too thick, loosen it with some cold water. Check out the vanilla custard that I made a while back here. […]

[…] 1 box raspberry Jello Fresh Raspberries or pound cake English Custard Whipped […]

I don’t get it…this looks like an ordinary custard recipe. What makes this so “english”?

I don’t know exactly. I researched about custard a while ago but I can’t find enough evidence to show that the English created the custard though. Regardless, perhaps the English has a strong tradition of making custards in their culture and it spread throughout Europe from there. In culinary terms, custards are often called creme a l’anglaise, literally English style cream.

The English love their custard. Any time that Americans would serve a dessert with ice cream, whipped cream, or cool whip, the English would serve the dessert with custard. Custard = the “ice cream”of England.

[…] are some of my favourite things to make. I tried Jamie Oliver’s custard recipe and I’ve been a fan ever since. It can be serve dwith puddings, ice creams, or pretty much […]

It goes well with fish fingers!

Custard and fish fingers? Really ….

@Kwokmun – It is a Dr. Who reference.

Ah, thanks for the tips LOL! I just went to see the clip on Youtube.

made this for the doctor who season seven premier and it is awesome

Are you English? I live in America, and it’s next to impossible to find custard here. We’ve decided to give a shot at making it from scratch; wish us luck!

I am not English, by the way. Custard from scratch is not hard to make but it is difficult to perfect it. Even professional chefs have problems with this. But when you nail it, homemade custard is one of the most satisfying thing you will ever make. Good luck!

Ok so.. I did everything right down to the last detail and I come up with this horrible pot of eggs and I made sure that it was a medium heat!!!! I did nothing wrong at all and I made custard before!!!! This bullshit!!! All that money spent just to get a pot full of eggs!!! I did everything just like you said! I knew I should have went back and used the same recipe I did before!! I’m never comeing to this site again!

It’s unfortunate that the custard base scrambled. I have scrambled many times before finally getting it right. Heat can be subjective–a medium on one stove may be medium high on another stove. Don’t stop trying!

I can’t believe how close I came! I got right up to the last step and I had it thickening an everything! 30 seconds later — curdle!!

I’m so mad because it was that stupid comment at the bottom which meant I had it too hot at the end. Without that comment I may not have ruined it! Thanks a lot!!!

My only regret now is not reading the comments first! I could have saved $10, half an hour of my wasted time and all this frustration!


Heat control is the most challenging aspect of making custard, especially when no stabilisers, such as cornstarch are used. The comment was meant for people who are overly careful with heat by setting it too low; in which case, it hardly thickens, and in some instances, gives an off-putting colour to the custard. In the end, cooks must use their best judgement to gauge the most appropriate heat level for their personal stoves. I hope you will continue to try to make the perfect custard!

I had the same problem; everything was going along swimmingly and then, suddenly, it began to curdle! Luckily I remembered some advice from the lovely Nigella Lawson and immediately whipped out a bowl, filled it with ice and water, poured the custard into a smaller bowl, and whisked like mad! The day was saved. Whew! :-)

What a bunch of whiners u r-I’ve never seen it curdle & do it often!

Once made how long will it keep?

Should keep in a fridge for at most a week. I would consume it all in a couple of days.

I think it’s called English custard because the French called it crème a anglaise. Makes lovely custard. I did a milk-free version using just cream and it turned out beautifully.

I made this recipe. It’s very good. But I only got 4 cups of custard. How do you get 8 cups from 4 cups of liquid?

Good question! It’s either a mistake on my part or that I whipped quite a bit of air into my yolks in the process of making it. If the custard was voluminous, it would appear that I have twice as much liquid when measured in a measuring cup. I remembered the recipe yielded quite a large batch of custard as can be seen in the picture.

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