Vanilla floating islands with crème anglaise

vanilla floating islands with crème anglaise or îles flottantes

These delicious vanilla floating islands (poached meringues), or îles flottantes as the French would call them – are like eating a sweet cloud. Covered in silky crème anglaise, this is one of the most delicate and texturally light desserts you will find. The recipe comes from my second cookbook ‘sweet’ which was published by Penguin Random House in 2015, and from my vanilla chapter. I 

The meringue part is easy, but making anglaise can be a little tricky. Keep stirring constantly until the custard thickens. If it should curdle, immediately blend with an immersion stick blender, and add a little cream if necessary.

You can decorate this dish in a variety of ways: toasted almond flakes, crushed praline, crumbled biscuits, citrus zest or fresh berries. I also loved the salted caramel touch Giles Edwards from La Tete adds to his îles flottantes.  A splash of brandy or other flavoured liqueur in the anglaise would add another interesting edge and make these even more grown up. That’s if you like a drop of booze in your desserts as I very much do. 

A few of my all-time fave desserts on DrizzleandDip

Decadent chocolate & pine nut tart

Decadent chocolate & pine nut tart

Apple & strawberry crumble

apple and strawberry crumble

Decadent chocolate & Nutella brownies

decadent chocolate nutella brownies

The famous purple plum torte

perfect plum torte

Recipe – serves 4


Vanilla floating islands with crème anglaise

Vanilla floating islands with crème anglaise (poached meringue) or îles flottantes.

  • Author: Sam Linsell
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: boil
  • Cuisine: French


4 free-range eggs, separated
a pinch of salt

105 g castor sugar
5 ml vanilla extract
625 ml milk
scraped seeds of
1 vanilla pod
70 g castor sugar
toasted almond flakes, for serving


Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt together until soft peaks form. Slowly add the 105 g castor sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat for about 4 minutes until smooth and glossy. Fold in the vanilla extract until well combined.

In a large, wide saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla seeds to a boil, then turn the heat down to low.

Using two large tablespoons, shape the meringue mixture into quenelles (oval dumpling shapes) and drop them into the warm milk and vanilla. Cook 3 at a time and turn after 1 minute per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

To make the anglaise, strain the milk and return it to the heat (in the same saucepan). Using an electric mixer, whip the egg yolks and remaining castor sugar until light and fluffy. When the milk reaches boiling point, add about half a cup to the egg mixture, beating constantly, then add the rest of the milk.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over moderate heat. Stir constantly until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming on the custard and chill before serving.

Serve each poached meringue on a thin layer of anglaise, with extra to pour over. Decorate with toasted almond flakes, or as desired.

Keywords: poached, meringue, vanilla, floating island, creme anglaise, custard, recipe, îles flottantes





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  1. I love your pictures and the recipes. There is a little typo in the recipe namely castor sugar. It’s caster sugar. There is only a castor oil, but you would not want to use that in your cooking.

  2. HI Sigrid. Thanks but there is no error. It can also be spelled with an o and this copy (and my book) was edited by a top SA cookbook copy editor at penguin. It seems that its acceptable to spell it with an o in South Africa as all our product packaging in stores is with an o.

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