Floating Island Dessert, a scrumptious recipe of poached meringues floating over crème anglaise (vanilla custard), a smooth and silky cream made with milk, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. It's a very easy treat to make, and quick too. Serve it chilled from the fridge, and it's one exquisite dessert you'll have again and again.
If you are looking for a refreshing no-bake dessert to impress your guests, look no further. This floating island recipe is the answer to all your questions. Easy - checked, quick - checked, yummy - checked; and bonus point, it's flourless, and made only with 3 INGREDIENTS.
It really can't get any better than that! You don't even need a fancy kitchen aid, even a good old hand mixer can do a brilliant job here. The hardest bit is waiting for it to chill, the longer, the better, but do keep it in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours. It tastes a lot better once it's cooled and the cream is settled properly.
What is floating island dessert?
So, what's this floating islands dessert? It's a very popular dessert across Europe; in Romania it's one of those desserts we grew up with. We call it "bird's milk", no idea why the silly name, I much prefer the English translation to be honest. But, it's still the same delicious treat.
In French, it's translated either as "oeufs à la neige", (eggs in the snow) or " île flottante" (floating island). Again, these versions sound a lot better to me.
Ingredients needed to make floating island dessert
- egg whites
- sugar -either caster or granulated
- vanilla extract
- egg yolks
- milk - full fat is the best, semi-skimmed also ok
Step-by-step photos and instructions
It's ridiculously easy to make, and believe me, even as a complete beginner in the kitchen, you would still absolutely nail it. DO MAKE SURE THE EGGS ARE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE BEFORE YOU START!
- start by separating the egg whites from the egg yolks
- add half of the amount of sugar to the egg yolks, add vanilla extract and beat together very well until you get a thick paste that has a pale yellow colour ( see photos 1, 2 and 3)
- separately, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, then add the remaining sugar, and beat until they hold stiff peaks and you get the consistency of a meringue (see photos 4 and 5)
- bring the milk to the boil, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and add one spoonful of meringue at a time ( see photo 6)
- poach of both sides for 1-2 minutes until they hold their shape, then transfer on a plate
Note! Do no overcrowd the pan, it's best to poach the meringues in batches, depending on the size of your pan, you might have to poach in 2 or 3 batches.
- once the meringues have been poached, add one ladleful of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture, mixing well after each addition, until you have whisked all the milk in
- simmer the mixture for 2-3 minutes until the cream thickens slightly, and coats the back of a spoon ( see photos 7 and 8)
This is the famous crème anglaise, English cream; or vanilla custard. Custard is usually thickened with cornflour (corn starch), but for this floating island recipe I omitted the cornflour, as we need the custard to have a thinner consistency.
- remove from the heat, leave to cool, then divide between serving plates and add the poached meringues
Can you make the floating island recipe in advance?
Absolutely! As I mentioned before, this dessert is best served chilled, ideally overnight, so you can successfully serve it the following day, and impress all your guests with you amazing treat. Hard to beat a homemade dessert, isn't it?
If you thicken the vanilla custard with cornflour, you can actually either serve it cold on its own, or add it to any custard-based dessert like Cremeschnitte Recipe. Do give it a try!
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Floating Island Dessert Recipe
For the meringues
- 5 egg whites
- 60 g sugar ( 3 ½ tbsp)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the vanilla custard
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 l milk (4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 60 g sugar (3 ½ tbsp)
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
- In a bowl, beat together the egg yolks with the 60 grams of sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla extract until you get a pale yellow colour and a thicker smooth paste. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until you get soft peaks, then add the 60 grams of sugar and beat again until you get stiff peaks, a meringue-like consistency.
- Bring the milk to the boil, add the vanilla extract, and add one tablespoon of meringue, and poach on both sides for about 1-2 minutes.
- Make sure you poach the meringues in batches, so the pan is not overcrowded.
- Remove the meringues from the milk, and set aside.
- Pour a ladleful of the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking well after each addition, until the milk is used up.
- Simmer the milk and egg mixture for 2-3 minutes until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon.Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then top with the poached meringues.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
- To see the measurements in cups and ounces, please click on the US CUSTOMARY link.
- The amount of ingredients listed can be adjusted depending on the number of servings you need, just click on the number next to SERVINGS.
- MAKE SURE THE EGGS ARE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE BEFORE YOU START, OTHERWISE THE EGGS WILL CURDLE WHEN YOU ADD THE HOT MILK OVER THE EGG YOLK MIXTURE.
- POUR OVER THE MILK GRADUALLY AND NOT ALL AT ONCE, AND WHISK WELL BEFORE ADDING MORE
I just watched the old movie "Desk Set", with Hepburn and Tracy. They had Floating Island for dessert, I had never heard of it, so I looked it up.
Your recipe looks easy, well explained and delish! I will be making it this weekend. Thank you.
I hope you'll like it!
I have watched Desk Set many times, and finally looked up the recipe😂 I am going to attempt to make it this weekend. I hope yours turned out well.
Hi there! How do I store it in the fridge overnight? Thanks!
Just cover with kitchen foil, that should keep it ok. Either use a tupperware or a large ceramic dish.
I've been trying to find out what dessert my Mom served for the last 52 years, and I just heard it / saw it on the same Tracy and Hepburn movie -DESK SET, I can't believe my fortune.
Floating islands was a recipe I learned to make in high school home economics class over 40+ years ago. As a young teenager, I used to make it for an after school snack. I had completely forgotten about the recipe until recently. What a shame as it would have been nice for me to teach my daughter some of the recipes that I made as a young teenager. I will be sure to make this for my adult daughter and share the recipe with her.
Thank you for sharing the recipe!
My mum used to make it years and years ago, and I absolutely love it. I am sure your daughter will love it!
I’m originally from Europe and my mom used to make it and we called it “Bird’s milk”, exactly as you mentioned. We loved it as kids. I can’t believe somebody actually calls it the same. I always wanted to make it, but I had no idea how that would be even called. Once I start searching I found it under the name Floating islands. Thank you for your recipe, I will be making it this Christmas and for sure I will present it as Floating islands and not as Bird's Milk 🙂
Hi! It's nice to hear that we are not the only ones who call this dessert "bird's milk". I hope you enjoy the recipe!
I absolutely love it.
It is a delicious dessert!
Not corn flour - corn starch! Corn flour never dissolves and leaves unpleasant grains in the cream. Starch dissolves and thickens the mixture without making it excessively viscous. You can, however, use any kind of starch - corn, potato or anything else. One teaspoon for one liter of milk should be enough for this recipe - you do want the sauce/custard to be slightly thickened, so it sticks to the poached egg white when you eat it. If it's too thin, it will simply run off. If it's too thick, however, it will be too much for the soft egg white and crush it, turning this beautiful desert into a shapeless, unappealing sauce.
In the UK corn starch is cornflour. The corn flour you must think of is cornmeal over here - I am afraid there are ingredients that simple mean something else in different countries.
This was my favourite dessert as a kid. Making it now for tonight
I hope you enjoy it, it's really delicious!