Chocolate Eclair Cake (From Scratch)
This Chocolate Eclair Cake features layers of graham crackers with homemade vanilla pudding lightened with homemade stabilized whipped cream, and topped with chocolate icing. A wonderful summer dessert!
Growing up with Sunday dinners at my grandma’s house, there were two desserts that stayed on constant rotation throughout the summer: store-bought angel food cake with strawberries and Cool Whip, and my grandma’s icebox cake. (There was also usually ambrosia in the fridge, because of course there was.)
My grandma’s icebox cake was a simple layering of graham crackers with instant vanilla pudding, and (sometimes) a layer of Cool Whip on top. Totally unassuming but the best kind of comfort food, just like my grandma. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started to see what looked like familiar icebox cake turn up on Pinterest, but it had CHOCOLATE FROSTING on top. I couldn’t imagine my childhood favorite being made any better, but if there was one way to do it, it would most certainly be to add chocolate!
It wasn’t until I saw this chocolate eclair cake recipe show up in a recent Cook’s Country magazine that I decided to try it. I loved that the pudding filling was made from scratch and lightened up a bit with whipped cream. I was taking icebox cake up a notch!
How Do You Make Chocolate Eclair Cake?
Chocolate eclair cake is a very basic icebox cake made with layers of graham crackers and vanilla pudding, and topped with a chocolate icing.
Most of the old-school chocolate eclair cakes call for the pudding layers to be made with instant pudding that’s mixed with a little Cool Whip to lighten the texture, and then topped with a chocolate ganache (or, if you’re pressed for time, canned chocolate frosting).
However, THIS is a chocolate eclair cake made from scratch! What does that mean?
- We’re still using graham crackers, because they’re a must!
- Homemade vanilla pudding instead of instant
- Stabilized homemade whipped cream instead of Cool Whip
- Simple chocolate ganache
Do I Have to Use Gelatin in the Whipped Cream?
Yes, for the whipped cream to be stabilized, the gelatin must be included. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a runny (and potentially watery) pudding filling. If you are vegan and/or do not want to use gelatin, I’ve read that agar agar can be used as a substitute. I have not personally tried this, so I can’t vouch for it in this recipe, but I would start there.
Do I Have to Use Corn Syrup in the Chocolate Ganache?
The corn syrup helps to keep the ganache flexible when it sets, which means it will be firm but is soft when cut through with a spoon or fork. This makes it easier to eat; otherwise, you’ll have a rock-hard ganache on top that will crack and break when you try to slice it or eat it. You can omit the corn syrup if you prefer, just be aware of the potential difficulty when slicing and eating.
Does Chocolate Eclair Cake Need to be Refrigerated (and Can it Be Frozen)?
Yes and yes!
It’s imperative that the dessert is refrigerated before serving and that any leftovers remain refrigerated until eating. However, if you want an ice cream-like dessert or just want to keep it in the freezer for a date in the future, refrigerate it as directed to allow it to set first, then cover with plastic wrap, then tightly with foil and freeze for up to 1 month.
So, there you have it – chocolate eclair cake made from scratch (minus the graham crackers)!
I loved how much this reminded me of my grandma’s icebox cake, but I just adored making it totally homemade and I am all about that chocolate ganache topping. I don’t think I’ll make another icebox cake without it again!
If you like this Chocolate Eclair Cake, Try These:
- Pineapple Icebox Cake
- Samoa Icebox Cake
- Oreo Cheesecake Icebox Cake
- Peanut Butter Cup Icebox Cake
- Ice Cream Sandwich Sundae Icebox Cake
- Peanut Butter Lover’s Icebox Cake
- S’mores Icebox Cake
Chocolate Eclair Cake
For the Pudding
- 1¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups (1220 ml) whole milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 5 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Stabilized Whipped Cream
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1¼ teaspoons (1.25 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
- 2 cups (476 ml) heavy cream
- 14 ounces (396.89 g) graham crackers
For the Chocolate Glaze
- 1 cup (180 g) semisweet chocolate chips
- ¾ cup (178.5 ml) heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
- Make the Pudding: Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk the milk into the sugar mixture until smooth and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom with a rubber spatula, over medium-high heat. Once the mixture reaches a boil, immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, continuing to scrape the bottom, until thickened and large bubbles appear on the surface, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.
- Make the Stabilized Whipped Cream: Stir the water and gelatin together in a bowl and let it sit until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave the mixture until it's bubbling around the edges and the gelatin dissolves, about 15 to 30 seconds. Using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream on medium-low speed until foamy (about 1 minute). Then increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture and whip until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
- Assemble the Cake: Whisk one-third of the whipped cream into the chilled pudding, then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream, about a ¼ cup at a time, until combined.
- Cover the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking with with a layer of graham crackers, breaking the crackers as necessary to line the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the pudding-whipped cream mixture (about 5½ cups), then another layer of graham crackers. Repeat with the remaining pudding mixture and another layer of graham crackers.
- Make the Chocolate Glaze: Microwave the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and corn syrup in a medium bowl, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes total. Cool the glaze to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Cover the top layer of graham crackers with the glaze and refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours before serving. Leftovers can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days.
- If you do not want to use gelatin in the stabilized whipped cream, I've read that agar agar can be used as a substitute. I have not personally tried this, so I can't vouch for it in this recipe, but I would start there.
- To freeze the chocolate eclair cake, refrigerate until the topping is set, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and again with foil, then freeze for up to 1 month.