Chocolate Eclair Cake Recipe

Chocolate Eclair Cake Recipe

This cake has all of the flair and prestige of traditional eclairs, but without all the work, making it the perfect dessert for holiday gatherings, birthday parties, or picnics. The beauty of this recipe lies in the simplicity. We utilize graham crackers and instant pudding to give you all the nostalgic vibes without the fuss.

This cake requires at least 10 hours chilling time, which can work to your advantage if you’re planning family meals or potlucks. Make this cake the night before and then just grab it and go when you’re ready to serve the next day. While you may be tempted to dig in right away after assembling, don’t skip the chilling time required. There is no way around this step. The cake needs time to set in the fridge overnight so you get perfect slices. Slicing without chilling will result in a soupy mess. Additionally, the pudding and cream layers between the graham crackers soften overnight, creating a delicious texture.

This recipe has homemade whipped cream and ganache, but you can make this even quicker by swapping in frozen whipped topping and canned chocolate frosting if you’re really in a rush.

“This is an impressive recipe without too much work! I loved the flavor of this cake, but you do need patience in order for it to properly set and be able to slice it. Beware, this cake is not for a warm weather day—definitely keep in the fridge until ready to serve!” —Tracy Wilk

chocolate eclair cake/tester image A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 2 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding

  • 1 vanilla bean pod, scraped

  • 3 1/2 cups milk

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

  • 3 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

  • 1 (14.4 oz) box graham crackers

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Chocolate Eclair Cake ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Whisk the pudding mix, vanilla bean, and milk in a large bowl until incorporated and smooth (the mixture should be thick). Refrigerate until ready to use.

    Pudding mix, vanilla bean, and milk in a large bowl in a bowl with a whisk

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Stir together the water and gelatin in a small bowl. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to thicken.

    Water and gelatin in a bowl with a spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Meanwhile, using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat 2 1/4 cups of the heavy cream on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.  

    Heavy cream whipped in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Microwave the gelatin mixture until the edges begin to bubble slightly, about 15 seconds. Add the mixture to the cream, then beat again until stiff peaks form, about 1 more minute.

    Gelatin mixture with the cream mixture in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Transfer the whipped cream to the chilled pudding mixture. Beat on low until just combined (careful not to over mix).

    Whipped cream and pudding mixtures in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  7. To make the ganache, place the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, chocolate chips, and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until smooth and shiny, about 1 to 2 minutes. Alternatively, put the ingredients in a small saucepan on low heat. Stir continually until smooth and shiny.

    Allow the mixture to cool in the refrigerator while you assemble the cake.

    Heavy cream, chocolate chips, and corn syrup mixture in a bowl with a spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Cover the bottom of a 9-x 13-inch baking dish in a single layer with 1/3 of the graham crackers. Top with half of the pudding mixture, spreading into an even layer with a silicone spatula.

    Baking dish with graham crackers and pudding mixture, and a spatula

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  9. Top with another 1/3 of the graham crackers. Spread the remaining pudding mixture over the crackers with a silicone spatula. Top with a final 1/3 of graham crackers.

    Baking dish with graham crackers on top a pudding mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  10. Pour the ganache over the graham crackers, spreading in an even layer with a spoon. You can create a smooth or swoosh design, as desired. Allow the cake to chill in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 10 hours.

    Chocolate Eclair Cake in a baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  11. Slice and serve immediately, right after removing from the refrigerator.

    Chocolate Eclair Cake in a baking dish and on plates

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Tip

To cut clean slices, freeze the cake for 15 to 20 minutes. Run a sharp knife under hot water, wipe it with a clean towel, and cut a slice. Repeat between every slice.

Variations

For an even simpler assembly, use thawed whipped topping and canned chocolate frosting.

  • Simply mix 4 cups of the whipped topping into the pudding mixture.
  • Instead of making the ganache, microwave the canned chocolate frosting for 20 seconds, then stir well and pour over top, spreading into an even layer.

How to Store

  • Store this cake in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 7 days.
  • To freeze, place the whole cake in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove and cut into slices or halves. Wrap in plastic, then place in a freezer bag. Store for up to 3 months and defrost in the fridge overnight before serving.

How far in advance can you make the the cake?

This cake will hold in the fridge for up to 7 days if covered tightly with plastic wrap. If you plan to serve and eat all in one sitting, you could make it as far as 6 days in advance. It's best served within 3 days.

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