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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