Floating Island Dessert
If you are looking for a light and elegant dessert that will impress your guests, look no further than this Floating Island Dessert recipe.
This classic French dessert consists of soft meringue clouds that float on a pool of creamy vanilla custard. The contrast of textures and flavors is simply irresistible.
You can also add some caramel sauce, nuts, or berries for extra crunch and color. Learn how to make this easy and delicious dessert with our step-by-step recipe.
It’s a dreamy French dessert for French recipe lovers.
As a French person, this Floating Island Dessert really means something to me because it is such a staple of festive dinners.
The best part of this recipe is it’s easy to turn it sugar-free by using the appropriate sugar-free sweetener.
But here, I am sharing the authentic French floating island dessert recipe to make you travel to France from your home.
What is Floating Island Dessert?
A floating island, also known as île flottante in French, is a French dessert made of a vanilla custard topped with sweet whipped egg whites cooked in a bain-marie.
The whipped egg white floats onto the custard and looks like a floating island.
The floating island dessert toppings are often a drizzle of caramel sauce, sliced almonds, or coconut.
How To Make A Floating Island Dessert
A floating island dessert requires some patience and cooking skills, but it’s pretty easy to make if you follow the tips and steps below.
Ingredients for Ile Flottante
An Ile Flottante, as French people call this dessert, is a two-step recipe using only 4 simple ingredients.
All you need to make this lovely French island dessert recipe are:
- Large Eggs – Separated, you need to split egg yolk from egg white to make this French dessert recipe.
- Full-Fat Milk – You can use trim milk instead of whole milk, but the custard won’t be as rich, thick, and creamy. It’s possible to use heavy cream, but it makes the custard a tad too thick to my liking.
- Granulated Sweetener of Choice – the original recipe uses white sugar. If you want to make a sugar-free version of this dessert, use erythritol or allulose, it works as well.
- Vanilla Extract or seeds from a fresh vanilla bean.
Making The Light Vanilla Custard
The light vanilla custard, also called crème anglaise, is the base of any good French Island dessert. It’s prepared like custard, but its texture is slightly thinner and runnier like cream.
So first, prepare the light vanilla custard. If you have never made a custard before, it’s not complicated, but it requires precision.
First, split the egg yolks from the egg whites. Set aside the egg whites in a bowl at room temperature for later in the recipe.
In the bowl with egg yolks, add sugar. Then, beat them with an electric beater at high speed until whiter in color and fluffy – it takes about 1 minute.
Set this aside.
Heating The Milk
In a saucepan, under medium heat up the milk and vanilla, and bring to a light boil. Remove the milk mixture from the heat.
Now the tricky part is to add the hot milk into the beaten egg slowly to avoid ‘cooking’ the eggs.
So first, temper the eggs by adding one tablespoon of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk vigorously to combine.
Repeat this step one more time.
Now that the eggs are tempered, pour the egg mixture from the bowl into the saucepan.
Return the pan to medium-low heat (no boil!), constantly stir until the custard thickens, and coats the back of a spoon or spatula.
If the custard has a few lumps, you can pass it through a fine mesh sieve.
Cool the custard sauce at room temperature in a large bowl. Then, film the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the custard, and refrigerate.
The best part of Floating Island dessert is the fluffy cloudy meringues on top! To make these, you need:
- A pot with boiled water.
- Egg whites – the ones you split at the beginning of the recipe.
First, bring one liter of water to a boil in a large saucepan.
Cover, and reduce heat to a very light boil. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat egg white on high speed for about 45 seconds or until they start to firm up.
Stop the beater, add sugar and keep beating until a stiff peak forms. You can also use a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, but you have to be extremely careful as overbeating is much more likely.
Now, uncover the saucepan and scoop out some stiffed egg white – about 1/4 cup of drop it onto the light boiling water.
Use a skimmer to plunge the egg white, and cook for 30 seconds on each side.
Finally, drain the cooked poached meringue with a slotted spoon, place it on a plate and leave to cool.
Some people also love to plunge the cooked egg whites into a bowl of cold water. This is up to you depending on how you want to serve this dessert – lukewarm or cold.
Repeat until all the egg whites are cooked.
Assembling the Floating Island
There are two ways to serve this floating island recipe:
- Cold – Store the custard and cooked poached eggs in the fridge in an airtight container for a few hours before serving.
- Lukewarm – Some French restaurants serve the custard cold with lukewarm poached eggs. In this case, prepare the custard a few hours or the day before serving.
French Floating Island Toppings
A French Floating Island is always served in individual serving bowls and topped with a garnish:
- Raspberries or strawberries
- Sliced almonds or chopped pistachios
- A drizzle of homemade caramel sauce
Frequently Asked Questions
Find below my answers to the most common questions about this recipe.
Floating Islands are a dessert that was created in the 18th century that came from the classic œufs à la neige, a French dessert with beaten eggs but no custard.
More French Recipes
I love to share the authentic French recipes my mum cooked for me as a kid. Below are a few more French-style recipes you may want to try!
Have you made this French island dessert? Share a review or comment below. I love to hear back from you!
Floating Island Dessert
Want My Kitchen Equipment?
Light vanilla custard
- 2 cups Milk full-fat milk is the best
- ½ teaspoon Vanilla Pod or 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
- 4 Egg Yolks
- ⅔ cup Granulated Sweetener of choice or erythritol if sugar-free
- 4 Egg Whites
- 3 tablespoons Granulated Sweetener of choice or erythritol if sugar-free
- 2 tablespoons Sliced Almonds per serving
- ¼ cup Raspberries fresh or defrost
Prepare the Light Vanilla Custard
- Split the egg yolks and egg whites into two separate large bowls. Set aside the bowl with the egg whites for later.
- In the egg yolk bowl, add the sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolk and sugar for 30/45 seconds or until lighter in color and fluffy. Stop beating. Set aside at room temperature
- In a saucepan, under medium heat, bring milk and vanilla seeds to a light boil. Remove from heat
- Temper the egg yolk by adding 1 tablespoon of the hot milk into the egg yolk bowl. Whisk vigorously while adding to prevent the egg from cooking. Repeat this step one more time.
- Now that the eggs are tempered, pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the hot milk.
- Return the saucepan under low-medium heat, stirring constantly, and gently with a wooden spoon until the custard thickened – about 6-8minutes. Be patient! It takes time. It should be creamy but liquid, cover the back of the spoon but not as thick as a pudding.
- Remove from the heat, cool it down in a bowl at room temperature, then film the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the custard (this prevents the custard from crusting in the fridge). Refrigerate for 2-3 hours to fully cool down.
Preparing and poaching the meringue
- In a large saucepan, bring 1 liter of water to boil, cover, reduce to a light boil.
- Meanwhile, beat the remaining egg whites at high speed in the other large mixing bowl. Beat for 45 seconds, or until it starts to firm up. Then, stop and add sugar.
- Beat again at high speed until a stiff peak forms. Set aside.
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop out some meringue mixture – about 1/4 cup, and plunge into the boiled water. Cook/poach for 30 seconds on both sides, then plunge into a bowl of cold water or set aside on a plate. Some people like to serve the meringue cold, others lukewarm, so choose your option.
- Split the vanilla custard into 6 serving bowls.
- Top up with the poached meringue and decorate with a drizzle of melted chocolate, homemade caramel, sliced almonds, or raspberries.
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Cooking Method:One Pan
Preparation:Under 30 Minutes
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This looks awesome and not too hard, can’t wait to make it I can feel it in my mouth already LOL
I can’t wait to try this
Wow that looks absolutely beautiful. I love the story of your grandma and the beginning of your cooking journey too.
Cheers! And let me know if you like to host Sweet New Zealand sometimes!
Leave me a message on my blog possibly the latest post, so I can see it 🙂
Hi Alessandra, It will be a pleasure to host Sweet New Zealand. Let me know when you want my blog as a hoster 🙂
Bless your Grandma Maria, I love this dessert 🙂
Great entry for Sweet New Zealand
Thanks Alessandra. I am so glad you read the post and also to be part of the beautiful Sweet New Zealand! Grandma will be proud of me if she saw this blog and recipes!
lovely post in honor of your grandma. the dessert looks amazing. I’m all about desserts with protein!
Thanks Dina for reading my looong post. It is so important to me to never forget the people who makes us who we are today. This recipe is awesome. I preferred the one with sugar of course but the sugar free version was ok too.