Ile Flottante Cupcake


Introduction: Ile Flottante Cupcake

About: Everything needs a garnish. Let's talk food! Follow me on Twitter: @garnishgirl

Ile flottante cupcakes transform a crunchy, creamy French dessert into an airy cupcake with mousse-like frosting.

Ile flottante is a French dessert made by placing baked peaks of meringue over a pool of creme anglaise, a sweetened and cooked cream seasoned with vanilla beans. The meringue, sometimes topped with toasted almonds and caramel, soaks up the sweet cream. Each bite of traditional French ile flottante is sweet, crunchy, and rich.

These cupcakes bear hardly match the flavor profile of the standard American cupcake, despite being modified from a store bought mix. While American cupcakes can be cloyingly sweet with dense frosting, this French-inspired cupcake is fluffy and puffed with air, due to the stiff egg whites in the batter.

Once baked, the cupcake is topped with soft meringue and lightly toasted almonds, and briefly toasted under the broiler. A drizzle of dark caramel finishes the dessert. The almonds and tangy vanilla and lemon meringue balance out the deep flavors of dark caramel. Each bite is airy, just-barely sweet, and slightly savory.

This French-American fusion offers a simple solution for those who want a lighter cupcake.

Step 1: Make Sponge Cake From a Box of Cake Mix


3 egg whites, separated
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 package of white cake mix


2 large mixing bowls
2 small bowls or plastic storage containers
1 electric mixer, standing or hand
1 clean kitchen towel
2 beater attachments (hand) or one whisk attachment (standing)
1 clean kitchen towel
1 spatula
1 baking sifter or fine mesh strainer
1 4 oz. ice cream scoop
2 (dozen unit) cupcake pans
24 cupcake wrappers


1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Fit 24 cupcake wrappers into the cupcake tins.

2. Separate the eggs in the two small bowls or plastic containers. First, crack the egg, and use the two shell halves to transfer the yolk back and forth. If the yolk spills, you can start over without ruining the entire recipe.

3. When you have three clean egg whites, add them to one of the larger two mixing bowls.

3. Dry the mixer attachment fully; excess moisture will prevent the egg whites from forming stiff peaks.

4. Start the mixer on low, and begin to beat the eggs. If using a hand mixer, best results are achieved by moving the mixer around the bowl as you would a spoon or spatula.

5. Bring the speed up to HIGH or BOOST, if the setting applies. Beat the eggs until stiff peaks form. If the eggs become grainy, too much time has passed. The eggs are still usable; but test batches proved the sponge cake achieves optimal fluffiness with just-stiff egg whites.

6. Add the water and oil to the bowl with the egg whites.

7. Open the box of cake mix and sift the cake mix into the other large mixing bowl.

8. Hold the sifter over the large mixing bowl with the liquids, and sift the dry mix into the egg white mixture.

9. Using the spatula, fold the dry ingredients in until just wet. When just mixed, bubbles will start to rise.

10. For best results, bake the batter immediately. Use a 4 oz ice cream scoop to fill each muffin wrapper 2/3 way full.

11. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. When the cupcakes rise, and are just browned, pull them out and allow them to cool for five to ten minutes.

Step 2: Make the Meringue Frosting


6 egg whites, separated
8 oz confectioner's sugar, sifted
pinch or two of salt
1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1 kitchen scale
2 small bowls or plastic storage containers
1 large mixing bowl
1 electric mixer, standing or hand
1 clean kitchen towel
2 beater attachments (hand) or one whisk attachment (standing)
1 clean kitchen towel
1 teaspoon measure
1 spatula
1 baking sifter or fine mesh strainer


1. Using the method from Step 1, separate the eggs into two separate bowls. When you have six clean egg whites, pour them into the large mixing bowl.

2. Dry the mixer attachment fully before beating the eggs into stiff peaks (see Step 1); excess moisture will prevent the egg whites from forming stiff peaks.

3. When the peaks are stiff, add a pinch of salt. Beat once, and remove the mixer.

4. Using the kitchen scale, weigh out 8 oz. of confectioner's sugar.

5. Holding the sifter or strainer over the bowl, sift in the confectioner's sugar.

6. With the mixer on low, slowly incorporate the sugar into the eggs. The eggs will flatten.

7. Using the strainer or your fingers to save the seeds, squeeze both lemon halves into the mixture.

8. Add the vanilla.

9. Beat the mixture vigorously, until stiff peaks return, and the mixer leaves a pattern in the bowl. The lemon and salt helps the frosting stay aerated. If the peaks do not hold, add a pinch or two more salt. There is enough sugar and lemon for a fair amount of salt to go unnoticed.

Step 3: Frost the Cupcakes With Meringue and Almonds


24 previously baked cupcakes (see Step 1)
1 batch of meringue frosting
6 oz. of sliced almonds


1 pastry spatula or knife
1 kitchen scale
1 small bowl
1 pair of clean tweezers (optional)
2 baking trays
kitchen timer or stop watch


1. Measure out 6 oz. of sliced almonds.

2. Using the pastry spatula, form a large swirled dome on each cupcake. Leave a small amount of exposed cupcake all around the edges. The second picture illustrates how not to frost the cupcakes.

3. Carefully roll the cupcake's edges around in the bowl of almonds. Alternatively, you can use clean tweezers to place almonds around the edges. The first method is faster but slightly messy; the second more accurate.

4. Place each cupcake an inch or two apart on a baking tray.

5. Set the broiler to low. Place each tray in the oven for exactly one minute.

6. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool.

Step 4: Make a Caramel Syrup


4 oz. granulated sugar
1/8 cup water


1 small saucepan
1 kitchen scale
1 pastry brush
1 hot pad
1 fork


1. Measure out the sugar, using the scale, and add to the saucepan.

2. Add the water, and swirl the sugar until it begins to dissolve. Set the pan down on the burner.

3. Using a wet pastry brush, remove the sugar from the sides of the pan. Check to make sure that all sugar crystals are submerged.

4. Turn the heat to medium high. Bring the sugar-water to a rolling boil.

5. The sugar will dissolve into the water, and the color will begin to turn. When the color reaches a deep golden, and the mixture begins to reduce, pull the pan off the heat.

6. Turn the heat down, and place the pan back on the heat. With a watchful eye on the color of the caramel, wait. The caramel will reach a deep, rich orange, and begin to smell slightly of smoke. Remove the pan as soon as the caramel becomes dark and opaque, or if it smells burnt. The unusual smell means it is just done.

7. Test the mixture with a fork. It should drip, but hold its form as it dries. The caramel is soft without being tacky or sticky, but will not become crunchy when dry.

8. Spoon or drip the caramel over each cupcake. Allow the caramel to cool.

Step 5: Cool and Serve the Cupcakes

When the cupcakes are dry and cool, carefully remove each one from the baking sheets. Use a spatula if necessary; the wrappers have a tendency to pull. Arrange each cupcake on a cake plate or cupcake tower. Serve at room temperature.



    • Backpack Challenge

      Backpack Challenge
    • Stick It! Contest

      Stick It! Contest
    • BBQ Showdown Challenge

      BBQ Showdown Challenge

    8 Discussions

    I'm looking at more and more instructables lately, this time for a desert cooking contest we hold where I work and I can't believe how good your way of picturing things look! I could almost do the whole recipe without failing just looking at the pictures, and I'm not much of a cook...
    The cupcakes looks great too and you can be sure I'll try them, it's getting hard finding stuff I can eat since I'm lactose intolerant.
    Nice instructable, I really like it!

    1 reply

    Thank you. I hope your dessert contest at work goes well! I didn't realize these were lactose intolerant; I'll have to remember that for gatherings with my allergy-friends.:)

    Love this--what a sophisticated cupcake. I was going to enter this contest, but I think not.

    1 reply

    Thank you :)

    And go for it! Everyone has a different take on cupcakes. I feel the same way when I look at all the beautiful cupcakes popping up around the site.

    I'm sure they taste as heavenly as they look!

    Beautiful work, as usual, garnishgirl!!!!!

    1 reply