Fake It, Don’t Bake It

by Sarah on June 23, 2011 · 14 comments

Did you know yesterday was Chocolate Eclair Day? I’m sorry if you missed it, but no worries. In my opinion, you can celebrate Chocolate Eclair Day ANY day of the year your little heart (and stomach) desires. I, however, was ready to celebrate yesterday.

But was I
about to make true chocolate eclairs, from scratch?

Hells to the no, y’all! [You should know me better than that by now.] What I did make was even better: yes, my little minions, it was the return of the Eclair ‘Cake.’

I mentioned this cake a ways back when I made my Strawberries ‘n Cream Puff “Cake,” but seeing as how the holiday for celebrating Chocolate Eclairs (as arbitrary as it may be) was upon us, I decided it was time to take things back to where it all began. And this time, I did nothing to try to healthi-fy the recipe.*
*Regardless, eating one or two (or three or four) pieces of this is not that “bad” and definitely comparable to eating a huge piece of chocolate cake, as I told my roommate, who received this beauty for her birthday.Why is it better than an actual eclair? It might not be as easy to eat with your fingers (don’t think I didn’t try), but it is a cinch to make and requires no actual baking or skill. It tastes incredible, and is surprisingly ‘light.’ The Eclair Cake also inevitably receives rave reviews:
“Now that is what we call plate-licking good.”
“Yeah, it IS good!”
“No, really. I literally just licked my plate.”
“Is it bad that I just ate a piece and am immediately thinking I should eat another?”
[Actual exchange between my roommates.]

You start by making my favorite faux custard* from a box of pudding, a tub of thawed whipped topping, and milk.
*With the number of recipes I’ve made involving this, I’m pretty sure I’ll soon qualify with an addiction.
Once you’ve mixed together a box of vanilla pudding with 3 3/4 cups of milk……stir in the entire tub of whipped topping (also known as Cool Whip).Try to ignore the fact that it looks shockingly like raw eggs, and keep stirring.
If you are impatient like me, and you didn’t let the whipped topping thaw all the way in the fridge, you may have some lumps. Some lovely lady lumps. (Right, Fergie?)
Let that set up for a little while in the fridge. “A little while” can mean 15 minutes…or overnight. :) You will want to assemble the final ‘cake’ at least two hours before eating, though…so keep that in mind. Why do you have to wait so long to eat?You’ve got to let the graham crackers soften up so that they become the textural equivalent of the eclair’s doughnut-like exterior.Choose honey grahams (although cinnamon ones would make this a Mexican Chocolate Eclair Cake, and that could be fun as well). If you’re lucky, your grahams will have an Eclair Cake on the back, but they will call it something lame, like Chocolate Vanilla Cream Delight…leading you to wonder if “Eclair” is copyrighted or trademarked.
Before you start layering, you need to make some decisions about chocolate. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “The only decision I need to make about chocolate is whether to have dark, milk, white, mint….” But this type of decision involves how lazy you want to be. You CAN purchase store bought chocolate frosting and use that in the final step. Or, you can be like me…
…and choose to make a mess.
I whipped up a chocolate glaze that was thinner than a typical frosting, but more in line with what actually covers an eclair.
And then, let the assembly begin!
It always takes me a few tries to figure out the best way to cram the crackers into the dish.
I sometimes end up with a little square I’ve had to make myself, without the aid of perforated edges.
Once you have a layer of grahams, start spreading the news. I mean, um…the custard. [And change your placemat to pink, because you decide a pink-and-green Lilly Pulitzer picture would be cute.]
Put down another layer of grahams on top.I did, finally figure out the best method for placement. Make a “ring” around the outside…...and then fill in the middle with half a graham cracker sheet.This will make for easier ‘portioning’ later when you go to cut the ‘cake’ and everyone starts fighting over who gets how much.
Repeat with another layer of custard and a final layer of graham crackers. (You’ll go through about 1 1/2 sleeves, which should naturally lead you to the thought that making a 9 x 13 pan would make a lot of sense.) Make sure you save a little custard for licking the bowl.Then, get ready to frost! [And perhaps switch to the blue placemat?]
If you’ve made the chocolate glaze like I did, this part is easy. If you are using store-bought frosting, you might want to pop it in the microwave for a bit to make it more spreadable.Cover the whole top with chocolate.
I got a little carried away, and the chocolate started taking over the sides…
….and the bottom.But no one seemed to mind.
After I let it mellow (yellow) in the fridge for a few hours, it was time to cut! The layers were beautiful.
The cake? Not so much.
And the more we cut? The messier it got.
Whatever. I don’t know about you, but I think “Chocolate Eclair Waterfall” sounds pretty darn tasty.

Chocolate Eclair Cake
[Makes 9 pieces…serves 3 ;)]

1 box vanilla instant pudding
3 3/4 cups milk
1 8 oz. tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
25-26 graham cracker sheets [about 1 1/2 sleeves]
Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows) or prepared chocolate cake frosting

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together pudding mix and milk.
2. Once the pudding starts to thicken, add in entire tub of whipped topping. Stir well to combine.
3. Let custard set up in the fridge for 15 minutes to overnight.
4. Assemble ‘cake’ by placing a layer of graham crackers in the bottom of a square pan, followed by half of the custard.
5. Top first custard layer with more graham crackers, followed by the remaining custard, and then a final layer of graham crackers.
6. Cover the top layer of grahams with Chocolate Glaze or other prepared chocolate cake frosting.
7. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Chocolate Glaze

4 Tbsp. softened butter or butter spread, such as Smart Balance
1 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or more or less to taste)
3 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Cream butter with an electric mixer.
2. Mix in the remaining ingredients, alternating between wet and dry.

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Maris (In Good Taste) June 23, 2011 at 7:04 am

Looks far better then the original!

Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table June 23, 2011 at 7:41 am

I want to stick my face in this – who cares that it's only 8 am. :)

Brittany (A Healthy Slice of Life) June 23, 2011 at 10:29 am

Messy is when you know it's good :) I could have gone for a slice… err… a scoop of that last night!

Maria June 23, 2011 at 11:23 am

Wow. I think this might be so easy that even I can make it! Messy desserts the best, because you can just eat right out of the pan.

I want that green spatula. Where did you get it?

Meri June 23, 2011 at 11:45 am

I will be making this tonight. My only dilemma? Should I use white chocolate, butterscotch, or banana flavored instant pudding mix? each would be divine, and each would be different…

Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean June 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm

this looks just like the eclair cake that i make!!! SO GOOOD! one of my all-time fav desserts

Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers June 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Looks great. Chocolate + Graham is where it's at.

Mary @ Bites and Bliss June 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I love how you celebrate all these food days! Are real foodie for sure! 😉

atastelife June 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I love when my Mawmaw makes that stuff. Yummmmmm-O. 😉 hahaha.

Annnnnnnnd…tomorrow is national pralines day.

Sara June 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm

OMG. I'm going to quit reading your blog. All it does is make me HUNGRY. I will be making this in the near future. Yum.

divinelykatherine June 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I made something like this with caramel once for my family :)

teabagginit June 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm

wow! i never heard of this but it's like a grown up version of crappy girl scout troop desserts! :) campfires be damned, this is great!

Kristina @ spabettie June 24, 2011 at 12:42 am

good LORD. (do I say that a lot around here!??) :)

Jason's birthday is tomorrow, and as soon as he leaves for work I was going to get started on a cake for him (he's only working a half day, home by noon!) I wonder if I could make this for him in place of cake… it looks amazing.

Kristina @ spabettie June 24, 2011 at 12:43 am

I also love the meticulous and geometrical puzzle – maybe THAT is why I want to make this so much…

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