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Floating Islands Dessert

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Oh Really? Yep, the most awkward recipe I think I’ve ever made is HERE! And I made these Floating Islands Desserts more than once because the elements of poached meringue, creme Anglaise, and spun sugar are not easy!

Who in their right mind poaches meringue? Then nestles it in a pool of pourable custard. And makes spun sugar in their home kitchen to put on the top? You’ve got to be a certain kind of dedication to make this crazy 60s throwback dessert.

floating islands with creme anglaise paoched meringue and spun sugar

Are you my kinda crazy?

If you’re in the Bake-Along you ARE my kinda crazy! Because we’re dropping THIS technical bake on the group today! The choices for our bake this week were:

  1. Signature Bake: Trifle
  2. Technical Bake: Floating Islands Dessert
  3. Showstopper: Petit Fours

And one more time for those that missed it, we are following Collection 2 on Netflix. This is the season with Ruby and Howard, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are the judges.

Why Pick the Technical Bake Floating Islands Dessert?

There were a couple of reasons. Mainly I felt like we’d had some pretty easy bakes recently. Every once in a while I like to throw out something really difficult like the Schicttorte, or the Puit’s d’Amour! I love to see our group jump on the hard stuff and give it their all!

So exactly what kind of 60s dessert is this? I am not 100% sure on that. All I know is that after making several batches, and subsequently messing up several batches, this dessert seems far-fetched. It is a lot of work. It’s also a lot of fretting. Will my poached meringue for these Floating Islands just puff WAY up and die? How do I shape a quenelle? Did my cream just boil? Is my sugar burnt??

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Why am I doing this??

Ok yes, it does seem like I am down on the Floating Island Dessert. I am glad I finally successfully made it. But I still don’t know why I made it. Like, why was this even popular? It’s not THAT great for ALL THE WORK.

spun sugar on a floating island

Floating Islands Are Made of Three Components:

  • Poached Meringue
  • Creme Anglaise
  • Spun Sugar Thread

And while a lot of the recipes I looked through said it took an hour, I had trouble pulling it in under 2 hours. That’s something to definitely be aware of. Give yourself lots of time and maybe make some coffee too.

Poached Meringue

I’m not even sure why this works. I thought the death of meringue was excess moisture. So here we are putting it in warm cream to get poached. And somehow, miraculously it comes out cooked. Why and how? No idea, it just works.

poached meringue

Making your meringue just right isn’t tricky but there is a trick to it. Don’t overbeat it. That’s what I did the first time out of the gate I just whipped the hell out of it and it was dry and chunky. Beat JUST until stiff peaks form. You can stop to check along the way, and when that peak stays up when you pull the beater out of it, you’re done!

Floating Islands Dessert for the GBBO Bake -Along

Creme Anglaise

This was the ONE part of the process I was looking forward to knowing how to make. Creme Anglaise is a pourable custard sauce. And while there’s not a lot of flavor in the ingredients when they come together as Creme Anglaise, stand back, it’s amazing!

I’m happy to have this skill under my belt. I feel like it’s something I can use in a lot of other tasty places. Think about pouring it over an overbaked dry cake. Or fresh fruit. You could even put it on the table for french toast mornings. There are a lot of ways to use a Creme Anglaise.

Be aware that when you float your poached meringue in the custard little bits will naturally slough off. It will look like your Creme Anglaise is lumpy but it’s just the meringues doing their thing.

creme anglaise

Spun Sugar

Ok, another good skill to have! Although if I were doing it again, I’d lay out a sheet to keep it from being so messy! This kind of sugar work was a new one for me. I’d always avoided it because I didn’t want the mess.

A few tips for making spun sugar at home:

  • use a nice heavy stainless steel pan
  • add the sugar and do not stir it
  • melt it over medium heat
  • watch it carefully it can go from “not melted” to burnt in 3 seconds flat
  • Once it turns brown take it off the heat
  • set up 4 jars with 2 chopsticks between them to catch the fly away sugar strands

How to Shape Quenelles

So the shape of the meringue is supposed to be a quenelle, which is this little football-shaped soft food. Ice cream makes great quenelles, meringue, not so much. It’s just fussy work. You’ll need two serving spoons to make them the right size. Fill one spoon with a big scoop of meringue, use the other one to smooth it into shape, and scoop off the spoon into the poaching liquid. You can use an ice cream scoop instead.

meringue quenelle

Floating Islands Dessert

Floating Islands Dessert

This throwback dessert will definitely give you some new skills to work with and a tasty dessert at the end.

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Other Work 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes



  • 6 egg whites, save the yolks you need them
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Creme Anglaise

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Spun Sugar

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar


  1. For Meringues beat the egg white until they form stiff peaks
  2. as SOON as they develope stiff peaks, begin adding the sugar one Tablespoon at a time, beating the egg whites as you go, keep working this way until the sugar is incorporated, then beat until the egg whites are just stiff again
  3. pour the milk, cream, and vanilla for the Creme Anglaise in a large deep frying pan, stir gently to combine, this is your poaching liquid
  4. bring to a simmer over very low heat
  5. while the cream is heating, practice making quenelles with the meringue
  6. once the cream is warmed up put six large quenelles in the cream and cover, be aware you will have some leftover meringue
  7. cook the quenelles on one side for 4 minutes, flip cover and cook again for 4 minutes, never let the cream come to a boil
  8. while they're cooking beat the eggs and the sugar together for the Creme Anglaise until the eggs are pale and runny, I used a stick blender in a mason jar
  9. once the meringues are cooked, remove them to a wire rack to drain
  10. strain the poaching liquid and get out all the meringue chunks
  11. put the eggs and sugar mix in a heavy bottom saucepan, pour the warm cream over them, whisking as you go
  12. put the saucepan over medium heat and cook and stir the Creme Anglaise until it starts to thicken up, remove from the heat and let it cool, stirring occasionally
  13. put the sugar for the spun sugar in another heavy bottom saucepan over medium-low heat, let it cook until it melts and starts to turn brown
  14. once it starts to turn brown don't leave it alone, watch it until it's all a light brown
  15. then remove from the heat and let it cool
  16. set up something to make the spun sugar over, I used 4 mason jars and two chopsticks over a quarter sheet pan to catch the drips
  17. use a fork or a whisk to drizzle the hot sugar over the chopsticks or whatever you set up, this requires a fast-moving hand back and forth over the prepped area
  18. as you get strands gather them up and set them aside
  19. to serve make one big platter filled with Creme Anglaise topped with the Meringue Islands and put a little bit of spun sugar on each island
  20. or assemble in single-serving bowls

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laura sampson

About Laura

Laura is on a mission to teach modern family oriented women how to make old-fashioned foods new again. A wife and mom of 3 boys, Laura understands the struggles of trying to serve a home-cooked meal each night. She provides recipes and cooking hacks for busy moms to create dishes they may think take more time or skill than they have to make. Read more...

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