In the summer I’m always on the lookout for make-ahead desserts that a) serve lots of peeps and b) are fairly easy to make. When I got the latest Cook’s Country (America’s Test Kitchen) mag I saw the recipe for their chocolate eclair cake. I bought the ingredients immediately and couldn’t be happier with the results!
ATK explained in their intro to this dessert that this cake is internet-born, in that you won’t find it in a cookbook dated before 2010. The blog version used graham crackers, boxed vanilla pudding, cool whip and canned frosting. Now if you’re saying, “Gee that sounds awesome!” then you can stop reading right now and follow whatever recipe you find after googling “chocolate eclair cake”. The reason I love ATK so much is that we think the same – wouldn’t this be that much better with homemade pudding and freshly whipped cream? Plus, chocolate ganache is as easy to make as opening the frosting can (and, hello? delicious).
I think everyone has a threshold for how far they’ll venture into the world of homemade. For instance, I wouldn’t make my own salsa or Greek yogurt (honestly that cheesecloth straining sounds like a hot mess) but I don’t buy pre-made cookie dough. Whenever people tell me (almost apologetically) that they don’t cook I always say the same thing – with the delicious and healthy prepared food available, only cook if you enjoy the process! Not every recipe is worth the work but this cake sounded like it was most definitely worth a try. All in all, for just a little bit of work with the pudding, this was DELICIOUS and a real crowd pleaser. A definite make again!
The pudding, though homemade, is indeed a quick version (no tempering!). Besides the few random ingredients you might not have on hand (loads of heavy cream and the gelatin) this is pretty straightforward. Make sure to start this the morning of the day you’ll want to eat it OR make it all the day before – it can be stored, refrigerated, for 24 hours. Gotta love that!
Chocolate Eclair Cake
America’s Test Kitchen
1 1/4 c. sugar
6 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
5 c. whole milk
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
5 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. water
1 1/4 tsp. unflavored gelatin
2 3/4 c. heavy cream, chilled, divided
1 box honey graham crackers
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
5 tbsp. light corn syrup
1. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk milk into sugar mixture until smooth and bring to boil (medium high heat), whisking frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.
2. Once mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook, whisking frequently for about five minutes, until mixture thickens.
3. Turn off the heat and add butter chunks and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and then transfer pudding to a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for at least two hours.
4. After pudding has chilled, stir water and gelatin together in a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, microwave for 15 seconds. Set aside.
5. Whip 2 cups of the cream (THIS IS NOT THE WHOLE AMOUNT OF CREAM IN THE RECIPE) with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Pour about a tablespoon of cream into the gelatin mixture and stir – this will keep it from clumping when added. Add gelatin in a thin but steady stream while beating cream. Continue to beat another minute until stiff peaks form. Soft peaks mean when you lift the mixer the cream comes off it like the way a kid draws an ocean wave – stiff peaks means it makes a point that doesn’t list to the the side at all.
6. Whisk a third of the cream into the chilled pudding, then scoop the rest of the cream on top and fold it in gently using a rubber spatula.
7. To make glaze, micr0wave chocolate chips, remaining 3/4 c. cream and corn syrup for about 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool about 10 minutes.
8. Line a 9×13 baking dish with graham crackers, breaking them to fit if necessary. Scoop half of the pudding/cream mixture onto graham crackers and smooth with an offset or rubber spatula.
9. Top with a second layer of graham crackers, then spread the rest of the cream mixture evenly on top.
10. Top the cream with the remaining graham crackers.
11. Drizzle glaze over the top layer of graham crackers and smooth to cover, if necessary. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 6 or up to 24 hours. Cake will keep, refrigerated, up to 2 days.