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Chocolate éclair cake is the perfect dessert to have in your back pocket for holidays, birthdays, potlucks, and family dinners. A no-bake, make ahead cake consisting of layers of graham crackers and vanilla pudding whipped cream filling topped with chocolate ganache – what’s not to love? The graham crackers get lusciously soft overnight in the fridge, creating the illusion of cake layers, and the filling is not overly sweet. Chocolate éclair cake is destined to be a family favorite.
Chocolate Éclair Cake: An American Classic
Cooking in the United States is interesting in so many ways. One thing that really adds strength to American cuisine is the fact that the United States has been an estuary of cultures for hundreds of years, allowing foods to mingle in delicious ways. French cooking has a very strong foothold in the United States. Chocolate éclair cake takes inspiration from the beloved French pastry of the 19th century, and changes the format for the modern home cook.
According to quaintcooking.com, chocolate éclair cake in this form first appeared on the scene in newspapers in the 1980s. It probably had been around earlier, we just don’t have any great documentation. I first encountered this dessert at my in-laws’ dinner table, but I’ve modified a couple of ingredients. Let’s get to it!
- Milk – I use 2% because that’s what I always have in my fridge. Any milk should work though.
- A large box of vanilla instant pudding mix
- Cream cheese- use a block, not the spreadable type. There is more liquid in spreadable cream cheese.
- Heavy cream
- Graham crackers- get two boxes just to be safe. When I made this in my glass 9×13 pan, I used 21 graham crackers. When I made chocolate éclair cake in my metal 9×13, I needed more to get good coverage on the layers. My metal pan has straight sides, while the glass one has curved sides. The straight sides lead to a larger volume.
- 8 ounces of chocolate. I like to use a Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking chocolate bar, but any chocolate will work. Chocolate chips will work just fine.
- Either a hand mixer or a stand mixer.
- A 9″x13″ baking pan, either glass or metal.
- A small offset spatula for spreading the ganache. You can use a spatula or butter knife, too. I just think an offset spatula is easier to use in this case.
Dessert doesn’t get any easier than chocolate éclair cake. All you have to do is mix the pudding with the milk, cream cheese, and heavy cream, make a ganache, and layer the graham crackers with the pudding filling. Then you let the finished dessert sit covered in the fridge overnight, and you have a delicious cake ready to go!
To make a ganache: either break or chop 8 oz of chocolate into small pieces. Tip the chocolate into a bowl. On the stove, heat 1 cup of heavy cream until you just start to see little bubbles around the edges of the pot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let the cream and chocolate sit for a few minutes, then whisk together until smooth. I do recommend heating the cream on the stove instead of the microwave. Whenever I do it in the microwave, my ganache turns out runnier. I’m not sure why that happens, but it’s consistent.
I can’t wait for you to make this easy chocolate éclair cake. I know you’re going to love it. You may also be interested in some other easy desserts: Five Ingredient Banana Bundt Cake, and Apple Cinnamon Bundt Cake. When you make any of my recipes, will you please tag me on instagram @gracious.cooking? More about the name change soon. 😉
Chocolate Éclair Icebox Cake
- 1 9×13 baking pan
- either a stand or hand mixer
- 3 cups milk I would use either 2% or whole milk
- 1 5.1 oz box vanilla instant pudding mix
- 1 8 oz brick cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups cold heavy cream see notes
- 28 graham crackers see notes
For the ganache
- 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 cup heavy cream if using whipping cream, reduce to 3/4 cup.
For the Filling
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer), combine 3 cups cold milk with the instant pudding mix. Mix on low or medium until very smooth. Place bowl in the fridge for 3-5 minutes for the pudding to set up a little bit.
- Take the bowl out of the fridge, put back on to the stand mixer (obviously you won't have to do this for a hand mixer).
- Add 8 oz room temperature cream cheese to the pudding, and mix on low or medium speed until mostly combined. The cream cheese will incorporate more when the cream is whipped.
- To your pudding and cream cheese mixture, add 1 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Whip on medium to high speed for about 5 minutes, or until cream has thickened considerably, and you have a thick, smooth filling.
For the Ganache
- Chop or break 8 oz of semi-sweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli semi-sweet baking chocolate, but whatever you have will be fine) into small pieces and place in a small mixing bowl.
- On the stove, heat 1 cup heavy cream until you see steam and just a few tiny bubbles, stirring occasionally. I do not recommend heating the cream in the microwave. The ganache always comes out thinner when I use the microwave.
- Pour the heated cream over the chocolate, and let it stand for 5 minutes, or as long as it takes you to assemble the cake. Whisk until smooth.
- Place 1 layer of graham crackers on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. You will need to break a graham cracker and use the pieces to fill in a gap on one of the short ends of the dish.
- Spread half of the filling on top of the first layer of graham crackers. I recommend spreading it with an offset spatula, but anything will work.
- Add a second layer of graham crackers on top of the first layer of filling.
- Spread the remainder of the filling on top of the second layer of graham crackers.
- Add a third layer of graham crackers.
- Pour the chocolate ganache over the top, and spread all over the top with an offset spatula.
- Place the cake uncovered in the fridge until the chocolate cools completely, then cover with plastic wrap or tin foil and refrigerate 8-24 hours.
- Serve and enjoy!
- Leftovers can be stored covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- You should be able to freeze the completely assembled cake (wrapped in 2 layers of plastic wrap and tin foil), and thaw it in the fridge before serving. I have not tested this, but it should work.
- Heavy cream is very thick. I like the Kroger brand best, personally. If you are using a thinner cream (whipping cream or heavy whipping cream), reduce the amount in the ganache to 3/4 cup. Do not change the amount for the filling.
- It is really important that the cream cheese be at room temperature. Otherwise the cream cheese will not incorporate very well into the filling.
- Not all 9×13 pans have the same volume. I need more graham crackers when I use my metal pan vs my glass one.