Chocolate eclair cake is an instant dessert classic; this no-bake cake features layers of store-bought vanilla pudding and Cool Whip sandwiched between graham crackers and topped off with chocolate frosting.
As the graham crackers soften, the whole thing melds into a creamy, sliceable cake. We loved the ease of these convenience items, but our enthusiasm waned when confronted by their flavour. With a couple of easy techniques and very little active time, we produced a from-scratch version that easily trumped its inspiration.
Since the cake layers required no more work than lining a pan with graham crackers, we made the effort to prepare a quick stovetop vanilla pudding, folding in whipped cream to lighten it.
For the eclair topping, we created a simple microwave-and-stir glaze. Six ounces of finely chopped semisweet chocolate can be used in place of the chips.
CHOCOLATE ECLAIR CAKE
Start to finish: 3 1/2 hours plus cooling time
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
2 3/4 cups heavy cream, chilled
14 ounces graham crackers
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in large saucepan. Whisk milk into sugar mixture until smooth and bring to boil over medium-high heat, scraping bottom of pan with heatproof rubber spatula. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and cook, continuing to scrape bottom, until thickened and large bubbles appear on surface, 4 to 6 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer pudding to large bowl and place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding. Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.
Sprinkle gelatin over water in bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, 15 to 30 seconds. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Add gelatin mixture and whip until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
3 Whisk one-third of whipped cream into chilled pudding, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream, 1 scoop at a time, until combined. Cover bottom of 13-by-9 inch baking dish with layer of graham crackers, breaking crackers as necessary to line bottom of pan. Top with half of pudding-whipped cream mixture (about 5 1/2 cups) and another layer of graham crackers. Repeat with remaining pudding-whipped cream mixture and remaining graham crackers.
Combine chocolate chips, corn syrup, and remaining 3/4 cup cream in bowl and microwave on 50 per cent power, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Let glaze cool completely, about 10 minutes. Spread glaze evenly over graham crackers and refrigerate cake for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days before serving.