Ile Flottante with Caramel

Prep Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 30 mins
10 Serves

For an ethereal holiday dessert, whip up Martha’s legendary île flottante (which translates to "Floating Island"). The light, fluffy meringue is balanced by the slightly bitter edge of the caramel it floats on, and is served with a rich crème anglaise sauce on the side.



  • Safflower oil, for pan

  • 9 large egg whites, room temperature (reserve 4 yolks for crème anglaise)

  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (we use Diamond Crystal)

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk

  • ¾ cup heavy cream

  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • Pinch of kosher salt


  • 1 cup granulated sugar


  1. Meringue: Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush a 10-to-12-cup Bundt pan with oil, and invert onto a paper towel to drain excess.

  2. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Beat in superfine sugar, 1 table- spoon at a time, gradually increasing speed to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in vanilla.

  3. Transfer meringue to pan, pressing to remove air pockets. Smooth with a small offset spatula. Set Bundt pan in a roasting pan; transfer to oven. Carefully pour boiling water into roasting pan until it’s 2 inches up sides of Bundt pan. Bake until meringue is puffed and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer Bundt pan to a wire rack. Let cool completely.

  4. Crème Anglaise: Combine milk and cream in a saucepan. Scrape vanilla seeds into pan, and add pod. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt. Pour half of milk mixture into yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return entire mixture to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours. Meanwhile, unmold meringue onto a cake plate; refrigerate until ready to serve.

  5. Caramel: Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Heat granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over high, swirling, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook, swirling occasionally, until mixture is dark amber in color, 3 to 6 minutes.

  6. Reduce heat to medium. Carefully stir in 1/2 cup water (mixture will spatter), and swirl to combine. Cook until caramel reaches 220° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat. Dip bottom of pan into bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Drizzle caramel over meringue (it should pool on cake plate), then slice and transfer to serving plates. Serve with crème anglaise. (Meringue can be refrigerated, uncovered, up to 3 hours. Crème anglaise can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 days.)


Cook's Notes

Meringue can be refrigerated for up to 3 hours. Crême anglaise can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

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