Floating Islands

August 8, 2020

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

This recipe is deceptively simple but utterly delicious. Light and creamy, it was my holiday dessert of choice when Iles Flottantes were on the menu in France.

Floating Islands

Recipe by St John restaurant in LondonCourse: DessertCuisine: French


Prep time


Cooking time





Simple, sophisticated and sublime, this classic French-inspired recipe features clouds of fluffy egg white nestled in a perfect crème anglaise.


  • For the islands:

  • 4tlarge free-range egg whites

  • ½ tsptwhite wine vinegar

  • ½ tsptvanilla extract

  • 260gtcaster sugar

  • 1 tsptcornflour

  • 320mltwhole milk, for poaching the meringues and then for the custard

  • For the custard:

  • ½tvanilla pod

  • 4tfree-range egg yolks

  • 70gtcaster sugar


  • Using an electric whisk on a high setting, in a spotlessly clean and dry bowl, whisk the whites with the vinegar and vanilla extract until soft peaks appear. Lower the speed and continue whisking, slowly incorporating the sugar until glossy and stiff then add the cornflour, folding it through with a metal spoon until completely incorporated.
  • Heat the milk to the gentlest of simmers in a large saucepan and spoon little heaps of meringue into the simmering milk, carefully easing them off the spoon with a finger. Aim for 3 little meringues per person. Poach the clouds for 2 minutes, then gently flip them over and poach for another 2 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate until needed.
  • Now for the custard sea! Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk and follow with the pod, then bring the milk back to a decent simmer. In a bowl whisk the yolks and the sugar together until pale, then add the hot milk to the yolks a little at a time, whisking continuously. Transfer the mixture back to the pan and place over a medium heat.
  • Keep stirring the custard, making sure that you get right into the corners of the pan. It is crucial not to let it get too hot – bubbling will curdle the custard, a disaster for your seascape. It is cooked when a finger dragged through the back of a custard-coated spoon leaves a channel. At this stage, immediately transfer to a bowl, lay cling film over the surface, leave to cool, then refrigerate until needed.

Quality wines from just £6.25 per bottle

The Wine Society is one of the UK’s leading wine merchants. A one time payment of just £40 gets you lifetime access to The Wine Society, unlocking access to honestly priced, world-beating wines. Plus, free, next day delivery on all orders with £20 off your first order. T&Cs** apply.

**If your order is for a gift, the recipient must be over 18 years. By placing your order, you confirm that the recipient is over 18 years old.

Join now

Get the latest ideas, advice and inspiration

No spam. Just useful and interesting stuff, straight to your inbox. Covering jobs, finance, learning, volunteering, lifestyle and more.

By providing us your email address you agree to receive emails and communications from us and acknowledge that your personal data will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. You can unsubscribe at any time by following the link in our emails.

Enjoying Rest Less? Help us reach more people like you

Leave us a rating Want to tell us something?