If there’s one thing we love around our house it’s a comforting dessert. This no-bake chocolate eclair cake is perfect when you want the best of all dessert worlds — smooth pudding, the crunch of graham crackers, and the most decadent chocolate ganache topping.
This is one of my favorite recipes I actually started making when I was in college when I had no idea how to cook or bake anything. This wonderfully sweet lady I would babysit for shared the recipe with me when she knew I was trying to learn my way around the kitchen. Anytime I went to her house to babysit and the eclair cake was there, well, let’s just say I couldn’t help myself.
Fast forward 25 years and I’m still making this. Now I make it for my own family and whenever I have a craving for something comforting and familiar.
Despite the french-sounding name, this cake is far from a pastry. It’s layers of pudding, graham crackers, and a chocolate ganache. I have no clue where the “eclair” part comes in, since there’s no dough or pastry cream. I suppose it’s similar to the chocolate eclair donuts with the layer of chocolate, but that’s where the similarities end. But who am I to question this?
When to Serve the No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake
Sure, you might never see this dessert on a menu at a fancy restaurant or served at the country club, but I promise it’ll be a perfect addition to your family’s favorites. My kids love it so much they now request it for their birthday every year.
It’s a great addition to the table when you need to serve something sweet to a large crowd (it fills up a 9×13 casserole dish). It’s also a good choice for potluck dinners or get-togethers because you make it the night before – which makes it easy on you the next day, and it feeds a large crowd.
How to Make No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake
You will see numerous recipes for no-bake versions of chocolate eclair cake. Most of them will tell you to use a can of chocolate frosting instead of the layer of chocolate ganache. While this is certainly a delicious shortcut, I personally think it lacks the same richness as taking a few extra moments to make the chocolate layer yourself. And don’t worry — there’s nothing fussy about this ganache either, it’s a super simple method with only a few ingredients and you could use it for other recipes too.
- Measuring cups/spoons
- 9 x 13 casserole dish
- Large mixing bowl
- Small saucepan
The ingredients for this dessert are simple and you can find them on sale. I like to stock up when I can so I can have the chocolate eclair cake ready to make.
For the cake:
- (2) 3.4 oz boxes of French Vanilla instant pudding mix
- 8oz tub of whipped topping, thawed
- 3 cups cold milk (I use whole)
- Box of graham crackers, about 14oz
For the ganache:
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup white sugar
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup of butter (one stick)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Method for no-bake chocolate eclair cake
For the cake:
- Combine the milk and both instant pudding boxes in a large mixing bowl, using a handmixer. Stir for 2 minutes.
- Gently fold in the entire tub of whipped topping until well combined.
- Add a layer of graham crackers to the bottom of the 9 x 13 pan. Don’t worry if they don’t line up perfectly!
- Spread 1/2 of the pudding mixture evenly over the bottom layer of graham crackers.
- Repeat by adding a layer of crackers and then the remaining ½ of the pudding mixture.
- Top the pudding with a final layer of graham crackers.
For the ganache:
- In a saucepan, bring the cocoa, milk and sugar to a boil. Allow to boil for about one minute while you are stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and cool for another minute.
- Add the entire stick of butter and teaspoon of vanilla extract and stir until butter is melted.
- Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the top layer of graham crackers while gently spreading it out evenly.
- Refrigerate overnight and it’s ready to serve the next day.
Tips and Variations for No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake
- Substitute chocolate pudding for vanilla if you want even more chocolate layers. Or, try the white chocolate or cheesecake flavor for a different take on the recipe.
- You can use Nilla Wafers instead of graham crackers if you want more of a banana-pudding texture.
- Speaking of banana pudding, you can add a layer of sliced bananas.
- Add more whipped topping to the finished cake for extra creaminess.
- Chocolate eclair cake will last in the refrigerator up to 5 days — but it will probably be gone before this ever happens!