Serves 4 to 6
Preparation time 15 minutes, plus 1 hour resting time
Cooking time 30 minutes

Not to be confused with that other floating favourite oeufs à la neige, this recipe is quick and easy to prepare and can be made in advance.


  • 6 egg whites
  • 180g (61/4oz) granulated sugar
  • 120g (41/4oz) coarsely crushed sugared almonds
  • (white)
  • 600ml (1 pint) vanilla sauce (custard)


1Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas Mark 4).

2Beat the egg whites until very stiff, adding 50g (31/2 tbsp) of granulated sugar halfway through. Once the whites are stiff, add the rest of the sugar and beat lightly for 30 seconds more. Stir in the crushed sugared almonds.

3Butter a 16cm (6in) straight-sided charlotte mould (or ribbed 22cm (81/2in) brioche mould) and sprinkle with sugar. Fill with the beaten egg whites and bake in a bain-marie for 30 minutes, covering the mould with a piece of lightly buttered aluminium foil to prevent the egg whites from browning.

4Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Pour the cold vanilla sauce (custard) onto a serving platter. Turn out the cold île flottante onto the vanilla sauce and chill for at least an hour before serving.

Extracted from Taste of France Magazine.

Originally from Lenôtre’s Desserts and Pastries by Gaston Lenôtre.

Note: There has always been some confusion between the two desserts île flottante (floating island) and oeufs à la neige (eggs in snow). Not surprisingly, really, since the former is normally made with one large meringue baked in a bain-marie (as Gaston Lenôtre suggests here), while the latter usually features smaller pieces of poached meringue.

Of course, different chefs swear by different methods. Larousse Gastronomique even describes an early version of île flottante “made with slices of stale Savoy sponge or brioche, moistened with liqueur and sandwiched together with apricot jam, containing chopped almonds and raisins” – which might sound appealing to some diners, but perhaps not to others.

According to John Ayto, author of The Diner’s Dictionary, the first reference to floating island in the English language was in a 1771 letter written by the future American president Benjamin Franklin. “At dinner, had a floating island,” he wrote.


  1. Can’t wait to try this but wanted to double check where in the ingredient list it states
    ‘white’??? And, do you have a good vanilla sauce/custard recipe to be used with this?
    Thank you!

  2. No mention of the caramel birds nest either.
    If you make oeufs a la neigh the sauce is created when you poach the egg whites in some milk. You whisk the egg yolks in some hot milk (with sugar and vanilla added) and whisk that into the poaching liquid when all the whites have been done. This creates a nice creme anglais to go on the whites.

  3. Hmmm. Benjamin Franklin was never an American president. Perhaps he was writing ‘to’ a future American President, Thomas Jefferson. Or perhaps it was Thomas Jefferson himself?

  4. This is a recipe that has challenged me for decades. The meringue part I’ve seen as poached or oven cooked. Really, the vanilla cream is great with fresh vanilla seeds, but the caramel on top takes practice so that it does not granulate or burn. But, the meringue is probably the most challenging. Funny, how you can find it in Paris’s at any small bistro. French chefs probably learn it when they learn to boil water.

  5. Judging from his ample figure, I have no doubt that Mr. Franklin would have written about this wonderful dessert. He played a very important part in the early formation of the United States but he was never an American president.

  6. I would be wary of using the yolks in a ganache because they are likely to be raw. The idea of using them in the vanilla cream is endorsed by Michel Roux Jn and I think Mary Berry, whose recipes can be found online aka BBC Food.
    Bonne Annee


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