Chocolate éclair cake is an instant dessert classic.
This no-bake cake features layers of vanilla pudding and whipped cream sandwiched between graham crackers and topped off with chocolate frosting. As the graham crackers soften, the whole thing melds into a creamy, sliceable cake.
While traditional versions are made from store-bought instant pudding and Cool Whip, we used a couple of easy techniques to produce a from-scratch cake that easily trumped its inspiration.
Since the cake layers required no more work than lining a pan with graham crackers, we made the effort to prepare a quick stovetop vanilla pudding, folding in homemade whipped cream to lighten it.
For the éclair topping, we created a simple microwave-and-stir glaze. Six ounces of finely chopped semisweet chocolate can be used in place of the chips.
CHOCOLATE ÉCLAIR CAKE
Start to finish: 31/2 hours plus cooling time
11/4 cups (83/4 ounces) sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
11/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
23/4 cups heavy cream, chilled
14 ounces graham crackers
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk the milk into the sugar mixture until smooth, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof rubber spatula.
Immediately reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, continuing to scrape bottom, until thickened and large bubbles appear on surface, 4-6 minutes. Off heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.
Transfer pudding to a large bowl, and place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding. Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a bowl, and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, 15-30 seconds.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high, and whip until soft peaks form, 1-3 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture, and whip until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
Whisk 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chilled pudding, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream, 1 scoop at a time, until combined.
Cover the bottom of a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with a layer of graham crackers, breaking crackers as necessary to line bottom of pan. Top with half of the pudding-whipped cream mixture (about 51/2 cups) and another layer of graham crackers. Repeat with remaining pudding-whipped cream mixture and remaining graham crackers.
Combine the chocolate chips, corn syrup and remaining 3/4 cup cream in a bowl, and microwave on 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Let glaze cool completely, about 10 minutes.
Spread glaze evenly over graham crackers, and refrigerate cake for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 469 calories; 227 calories from fat; 25 g fat (14 g saturated, 1 g trans fats); 68 mg cholesterol; 334 mg sodium; 58 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 40 g sugar; 6 g protein.