Éclair Cake

The perfect potluck dessert, this can be prepped ahead of time and left in the fridge until it's time to dig in.

Eclair Cake
Photo: Molly Bolton/Southern Living
Active Time:
30 mins
Chill Time:
8 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
9 hrs
Servings:
12

Éclairs, or chocolate eclairs, are a popular pastry found in many French bakeries. These delicate desserts are made using a base of pâte à choux, or choux pastry. The choux pastry is baked and cooled and then filled with pastry cream before being topped with a chocolate glaze or chocolate ganache to complete the delicious treat.

The only problem? Choux pastry can often be finicky to make. And sometimes you may not want to go to all the trouble just to enjoy a few bites. That's where an eclair cake comes in.

This easy no-bake cake is perfect for parties or potlucks, or simply dishing up dessert for your family. It combines graham crackers with vanilla pudding and chocolate ganache to mimic the flavors of a traditional eclair. It's an impressive, luscious dessert with layers of texture and flavor throughout. But the best part is that it can be made with very little fuss.

Prep it ahead of time for any occasionm and dish it up cold. Your friends and family are sure to ask you for the recipe time and time again.

What Is Eclair Cake Made Of?

An eclair cake can be made with just six ingredients. This recipe uses graham crackers as the base for each layer of the cake. Then, vanilla instant pudding, milk, and whipped topping make up the filling. This recipe also calls for semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream to make the chocolate ganache topping.

ingredients for an eclair cake on a white background
Molly Bolton/Southern Living

How to Make Eclair Cake

Step 1. Layer crackers and filling

To make this eclair cake, first place a layer of graham crackers on the bottom of a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Because of the shape of the dish, a few graham crackers will need to be broken up to evenly cover the base of the dish.

graham crackers in baking dish
Molly Bolton/Southern Living

Once the first layer has been placed, mix together the filling. Combine the instant pudding mix and milk, and then stir in the thawed whipped topping. Spread half of the pudding mixture over top of the first graham cracker layer.

Step 2. Chill

Add another layer of graham crackers, the remaining pudding, and then the last layer of graham crackers. Once the layering has been completed, put the dish in the fridge to chill.

layered graham crackers and filling
Molly Bolton/Southern Living

Step 3. Make chocolate topping

To make the chocolate ganache topping, chop the chocolate and put it in a heat-safe bowl.

chopped chocolate in a glass bowl
Molly Bolton/Southern Living

Heat up the heavy cream in a saucepan until it's just boiling, and pour it over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for two minutes before whisking it.

whisking melted chocolate
Molly Bolton/Southern Living

Once the ganache is smooth, remove the chilled cake from the fridge, and pour the ganache over top. Use a spatula to smooth the topping, and put the eclair cake back in the fridge to fully chill for at least eight hours.

spreading ganache on eclair cake layers
Molly Bolton/Southern Living

Why Do You Need to Chill Eclair Cake?

This no-bake eclair cake is best served chilled. Chilling the cake for at least eight hours gives the pudding filling plenty of time to firm up while softening the graham crackers at the same time. Once the graham crackers have softened, they resemble the texture of the choux pastry traditionally used to make eclairs.

What's the Best Pudding to Use for Eclair Cake?

It's important to use instant pudding mix for this recipe because of the way it sets up. Using cook-and-serve pudding wouldn't allow for the pudding layer to be mixed with the whipped topping and layered as easily.

How Long Does Eclair Cake Last in the Fridge?

Planning to make this dessert for the family? If you don't finish it, don't worry! This cake saves beautifully in the fridge. Place a lid on your baking dish, or cover it with plastic wrap, and keep the eclair cake in the fridge for three to five days.

Ingredients

  • 24 graham crackers

  • 2 (3.4-ounce) packages vanilla instant pudding

  • 2 ⅓ cups cold milk

  • 1 (8-ounce) tub whipped topping, thawed

  • 2 (4-ounce) semi-sweet chocolate bars

  • 1 cup heavy cream

Directions

  1. In a 13-x 9-inch glass dish, place one layer of graham crackers, breaking up the crackers as needed to fill the space. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the instant pudding mix and cold milk. Fold in the whipped topping. Spread half of the pudding mixture over the graham crackers. Top with another layer of graham crackers. Spread the remaining pudding mixture over the graham crackers. Top with a final layer of graham crackers. Transfer the dish to the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

  2. While the cake layers are chilling, make the ganache topping: Finely chop the chocolate, and transfer it to a heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream on medium-low for 5 minutes until just boiling. Do not allow the cream to heat to a rolling boil. Slowly pour the hot heavy cream over the chopped chocolate. Allow the mixture to sit for two minutes before whisking until smooth.

  3. Remove the chilled eclair cake layers from the fridge. Pour the prepared ganache over top and smooth it with a spatula. Cover the eclair cake with the baking dish lid or plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge. Allow the cake to chill for at least 8 hours before serving.

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