Île Flottante (Floating Island) GF

Île Flottante isn’t just a fabulous French dessert — it’s a mouth orgasm. I’m talking about voluptuous clouds of meringue, floated on a bed of luxurious creme Anglaise, and drizzled with thin strands of caramel. Are you drooling yet? Here’s the recipe:

Île Flottante (or “floating island;” pr. “eel flow-tawnt”) rocked my world when I was fourteen years old. That’s when Juliette Miller — my friend Gerald’s French-born mother — made it for me. One bite and I was hooked.

Here’s the photographic, step-by-step recipe, followed by a printer-friendly copy-and-paste version:

To make the creme Anglaise, first separate 6 large, organic eggs.

Put the yolks in a heavy-based sauce pan.

Meanwhile, put the 6 egg whites in a large mixing bowl, and set them aside. They will mount better when they warm to room temperature.

Beat the yolks with a wire whisk…

And then gradually beat in one 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. You have to add the sugar gradually, or the mix will turn grainy. Keep beating until the yolks turn pale and thick — about 3 minutes.

Now trade your whisk for a wooden spoon or a wooden spatula. We will be stirring the sauce (not beating it) from this point forward.

Stirring continuously, add 1 1/2 cups of hot milk* by droplets. The goal is to keep the yolks from scrambling, which they will do if you add the milk too quickly.

*I poured my milk into a glass measuring cup, and then heated it in the microwave for about 3 minutes. If you are adamantly opposed to microwaving, then by all means heat your milk in a sauce pan on the stove. Just make sure the milk doesn’t scorch. It should barely come to the simmer.

Set the saucepan over a medium-low flame. Stir slowly but constantly, until the sauce becomes thick enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon, as pictured above. Promptly remove the pan from the heat.

Warning! Be careful not to over heat, or the yolks will scramble. I can tell you that thickening always occurs just before the simmering stage. You’ll know that the sauce is about to reach the simmer when a cloud of steam arises from the pan.

Off heat, stir in one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract…

And perhaps a tablespoon of dark rum.

A note from reader Carrie Nation, along with my response:

Dear Kevin — I don’t permit alcohol in my home! I’ll stick with my pure vanilla extract and skip the rum, thank you very much. Sincerely, C.N.

Dear Carrie — I don’t mean to shock you, but pure vanilla extract contains 41% alcohol. That’s right — it’s even boozier than rum. But you can use a variety of imitation vanilla which does not contain spirits. Check labels to be sure. Meanwhile, have fun smashing your own windows for a change. Love, Kevin

If you are not going to use your creme Anglaise right away, let it come to room temperature. Then cover it with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. It will stay fresh and wonderful for up to 3 days.

Using hand-held electric beaters or a standing mixer, start beating the egg whites at medium speed (No. 4 on my Kitchen Aid mixer).

When the whites begin to foam, add one 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt.

Then increase the speed to “high,” and gradually add 3/4 cup of granulated sugar…

And a teaspoon of vanilla.

Continue beating until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks — about 5 minutes.

Now butter a baking dish, and dust its bottom and sides with confectioners’ sugar. Tip the dish over the sink to dislodge excess sugar.

Gently pack the beaten whites into the prepared dish, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Lick the spatula.

Bake the meringue on the lower-middle rack of a preheated 250°F oven for 35-40 minutes. Then let it cool briefly on a wire rack. When thoroughly cool, you can wrap it in plastic and keep it in the fridge for a day or two. For longer storage, freeze the meringue for up to one month.

Shall we make the caramel? Stir together 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a heavy-based pot. Without stirring, heat the mixture over a medium flame until the sugar dissolves and the syrup turns a light caramel brown — about 5 minutes. Immediately place the pot in a pan of ice water to stop the heating. If the mixture seizes up — meaning it crystallizes into a hard mass — just gently reheat it until it softens.

To assemble the dessert, pour the creme Anglaise onto a serving platter or bowl, and then place chunks of mergingue on top. Or, do what I do, and pour a spoonful or two of the creme into an oversized cocktail glass, as pictured above.

Float big spoonfuls of meringue atop the Anglaise…

And then, using a fork, draw up some  caramel, and drizzle it over the “island.”

Folks, Île Flottante isn’t merely a dessert — it’s an orgasmic experience. I hope you’ll try it some day.

One final note: If it’s any encouragement, you can assemble and refrigerate the finished dish several hours before your well-dressed guests arrive.

As promised, here’s a printer-friendly version of the above deliciousness:

Île Flottante (Floating Island)
Kevin Lee Jacobs (www.kevinleejacobs.com)
Ingredients for 6 servings
For the Creme Anglaise:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
For the meringue:
6 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water

Special Equipment: A standing mixer or hand-held electric beaters; a 2 1/2 quart baking dish, buttered and dusted all over with confectioners’ sugar

The Creme Anglaise
1. Put the egg yolks in a heavy-based saucepan, and beat them briefly with a wire whisk. Gradually whisk in the sugar, and continue beating until the yolks turn pale yellow and thick — about 3 minutes.

2. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gradually stir in the hot milk by droplets. (If you add the milk all at once, you might scramble the eggs.)

3. Set the pan over medium heat, and stir slowly but continuously with the wooden spoon until the sauce becomes thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. Thickening will occur just before the simmering stage, or when a puff of steam arises from the pan. Do not overheat, or you will scramble the eggs.

4. Off heat, stir in the vanilla and the optional rum. If you are not going to use the sauce right away, let it come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

The Meringue
Place the oven rack at the lower-middle position; preheat the oven to 250°F.

1. Beat the egg whites at medium speed. When they begin to foam, add the cream of tartar and the salt. Then increase the speed to “high,” and gradually add the sugar and the vanilla. Continue beating until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks — 4-5 minutes.

2. Gently pack the meringue into the prepared baking dish, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. The meringue is done when a wooden skewer or a plastic straw inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set the baking dish on a rack to cool. When completely cool, the meringue can be placed in an airtight continue and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Or, freeze the meringue for up to one month.

The Caramel
Stir together the sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan or small Dutch oven. Bring the syrup to a simmer over a medium-low flame. When the syrup turns a light caramel brown, immediately remove from heat, set the pan in a dish of ice water. If the caramel hardens too quickly, simply reheat it over a low flame.

Assembling the dessert — Pour the creme Anglaise onto a serving platter or shallow bowl, and top it with chunks or spoonfuls of meringue. Then, using a fork, drizzle thin strands of caramel over the meringue. Alternately, you can make individual portions in dessert goblets or large-size cocktail glasses. The dessert can be assembled several hours in advance, and then refrigerated.

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  1. This looks fabulous and I think you explained it in such a manner that I do believe I WILL try it. Perhaps this is the Valentine’s Day dessert this year!

  2. My first thought—“That’s so Edith Wharton!” I can’t wait to try it!

  3. Do you use regular granulated sugar or the ultra-fine? This looks amazingly wonderful and a most interesting way to eat eggs!!

  4. Brenda Johnson says:

    Oh how delicious this is!! How have I never tried this before?? I am so thankful to you for opening my eyes! This is sweet pillows of meringue floating on a creamy bed covered lovingly with crisp crunchy caramelized sugar so many textures, such wonderful flavor! Thank you Kevin!! I will be trying my hand at making this soon!! (The beautiful presentation was pretty spectacular as well!

  5. Hi Marjean – I dusted the baking dish with confectioners’ sugar. Otherwise, I used regular granulated sugar for the creme Anglaise, the egg whites, and the caramel. Enjoy!

  6. (I’m still crying with laughter over the education about the alcohol in vanilla extract…hee hee)

  7. If you put the meringue in silacone muffin tins they come out beautiful. I put the creme anglaise in a shallow bowl with the meringue island in the middle. I’ve never had it with caramel which I’m dying to try. This is my favorite desert so any variation of it I’m happy to gobble down.

    Amazing how you schooled the self important person the alcohol content of extracts. 🙂

  8. Today is my birthday and I was craving something yummy. Thank you, you provided just what I wanted. I’m collecting everything I need and creating right now. Can’t wait to taste it!

  9. Misty – Happy Birthday to you, and enjoy the dessert!

  10. Good thing I read the instructions that are with the pictures. The recipe doesn’t say to gradually add the milk to the egg yolks.

  11. Good eyesight, Misty. I’ve added the hot-milk step to the copy-and-paste version.

  12. Karen Hermansen says:

    How many servings does this make?

  13. Hi Karen — Six servings, as mentioned under the copy-and-paste version. But I’m being very conservative here. You might find the dessert serves 8. Or, if I’m one of your guests, you’ll find the recipe barely serves 2. Because I really, really, love Ile Flottante, and will gladly eat the entire thing myself!

  14. Sound delish! Can’t wait to try it on my next dinner guests. Thanks again, Kevin. Love your recipes!

  15. PS: besides learning about new recipes, I learned about Carrie Nation to boot!

  16. Absolutely Delicious! Yummy, yummy and oh so good.

  17. Joyce – Carrie Nation. What a woman!

    Misty – So glad you tried — and liked — this (birthday) dessert.

  18. This is a dessert to dazzle! I wonder if it would be crazy to try to make it for 120 or so at an upcoming banquet???

  19. Hi Julz – Tres chic, indeed! You could, in fact, make this for a huge crowd, since all of the components can be made in advance. Assemble and refrigerate several hours before serving time. You could float the island(s) on platters of creme Anglaise just as Krystal in comment #7 does, for “self-serve.” Or, arrange them as I did, in individual goblets. In any event, the dessert will be the talk of the party. I promise.

  20. Laura Johmson says:

    My Mother used to make something similar. She put spoonfuls of the uncooked whipped meringue in the pan with the custard and covered it. Kinda like meringue dumplings in custard. It was Daddy’s favorite, mine too.


  1. […] people reminiscing how Île Flottante was first introduced to them by a mother/grandmother figure (Kevin Lee Jacobs – a home and garden internet personality,   This matriarchal dessert could suggest […]

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