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This No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake is an easy icebox dessert made with a wonderful creamy custard filling between layers of softened graham cracker and topped with a rich chocolate glaze. I love to serve it with strawberries for a garnish.

An image of a piece of no-bake chocolate eclair cake with a sliced strawberry on top.

No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake

A funny thing happens sometimes where I make something that has been around forever and that I think everybody in the world knows about, and then it turns out no one in my social circle seems to have ever experienced it before. That’s the case with this easy chocolate eclair cake. 

I swear I saw this on every potluck table when I was growing up. But I made this for a dinner party recently and no one, not even my husband, thought they had tasted eclair cake before! Then I polled my friends, SIL, BIL, and others and not one person I asked had ever had an eclair cake!

Our oldest daughter is named Clara and immediately started calling this e-Clara cake, or even just Clara cake, which has stuck. It’s such an easy recipe that she can even make it by herself, which she loves.

An image of three slices of chocolate eclair cake on dessert plates. 

What is Chocolate Eclair Cake?

This dessert is called an eclair cake because it’s flavor, and even texture to an extent, is reminiscent of French éclairs, which are cream filled pastries coated with a chocolate glaze on top.

It’s one of those recipes that is so simple and easy to make that it feels like cheating.

The fudgy frosting/glaze/topping is super easy to make and pour over the top. It’s just melted butter whisked with cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and milk. But it’s literally the icing on the cake. You pour it on and it mostly smooths itself out, then sets into a thin, fudgy layer of chocolate indulgence that perfectly balances the light, creamy vanilla pudding underneath.

The pudding layer is ridiculously easy as well. It’s just a package of instant vanilla pudding mixed with cold milk (but not quite as much as the package directs), which is then combined with a container of Cool Whip or stabilized whipped cream. It makes for a super light, custard with the most wonderful consistency!

An image of three slices of eclair cake on plates next to the pan with the rest of the dessert still in it ready to be served. An image of a layered icebox cake dessert with softened graham crackers, creamy pudding and whipped cream, and chocolate glaze on top.    

How to Make No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake

1. Make the pudding:  Combine the contents of a small package of vanilla pudding with cold mix and whisk together for 2 minutes, then let it set up in the fridge for 5 minutes to thicken slightly.

An image of prepared vanilla pudding from a mix.

2. Combine pudding and whipped cream:  Just stir the two together with a spatula until no streaks remain.

An image of whipped cream being folded into vanilla pudding.

3. Arrange whole graham crackers in an even layer on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish:  You may need to break some apart to cover the edges.

An image of graham cracker squares arranged in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish.

4. Pour half of the custard filling over the graham crackers:  Spread it to the corners to create an even layer.

An image of a layer of creamy whipped cream and pudding spread over graham crackers in a 9x13-inch baking dish.

5. Repeat with another layer of graham crackers, the remaining custard, and a final layer of graham crackers on top:  As the dessert sets up in the fridge, the custard will soften the graham crackers without making them soggy so they get this cake-like texture to them that is to die for!

6. Mix the chocolate glaze and pour over the top:  Just whisk all of the glaze ingredients together and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the top layer of graham crackers.

7. Chill in the fridge:  If you were to slice into this dessert right away, you would end up with crunchy graham crackers and pudding goop. It really needs at least 4 hours in the fridge to set up so that it can actually be sliced and served. I think adding a berry or two to each slice for presentation is not only pretty, but a delicious addition.

      An image of a sliced eclair cake with a spatula for serving.

Can I make Eclair Cake Without Cool Whip?

I’ve made this both with Cool Whip and with stabilized whipped cream and nobody will notice the difference. So I’m including the stabilized whipped cream version in the recipe notes if you want to try it since that’s what I typically use. 

But the beauty of an icebox dessert like this no-bake chocolate eclair cake is that you can literally throw it together in about 10 minutes with hardly any effort at all, so it’s not something I would get hung up on if you don’t want to mess with it. 

Stabilizing whipped cream, while not difficult, does take a little bit of experience if you’ve never whipped cream before since you could go too far and get it too stiff, which would ruin the wonderful texture of this dessert. 

To make stabilized whipped cream, stir 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin into 2 tablespoons cold water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then microwave for 15-30 seconds until the gelatin has completely dissolved and set aside.

An image of a packet of unflavored gelatin powder being dissolved in water in a glass bowl. 

Beat 2 cups heavy cream using an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the gelatin and beat again until stiff peaks form, then use in place of the Cool Whip. I don’t sweeten the stabilized whipped cream with sugar for this recipe since the other ingredients are plenty sweet enough already.

An image of a bowl of stabilized whipped cream.

Eclair Cake Variations from Others

More No-Bake Desserts You’ll Love

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No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake
Yield: 18 servings

No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake

This No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake is an easy icebox dessert made with a wonderful creamy custard filling between layers of softened graham cracker and topped with a rich chocolate glaze.  I love to serve it with strawberries for a garnish.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

Filling Layers

  • 2 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip*, thawed
  • 3 sleeves graham crackers

Glaze

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine the pudding mixes and milk in a large bowl and whisk for 2 minutes, until smooth and beginning to thicken. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
  2. Fold Cool Whip into the vanilla pudding, stirring until completely incorporated.
  3. Arrange graham crackers in the bottom of a 9x13-inch dish in an even layer, breaking them up as needed to fit the pan. Spread 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the bottom layer of graham crackers. Arrange additional graham crackers in another even layer on top of the pudding, then repeat with the remaining pudding mixture and a final layer of graham crackers.
  4. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter and milk until the butter has melted, then add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla and stir until smooth. Pour over the top graham cracker layer, spreading the glaze out to create a smooth top.
  5. Transfer the eclair cake to the refrigerator and let it chill for 8 hours until set. Slice into squares and serve.

Notes

* You can replace the Cool Whip with stabilized whipped cream. Stir 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin into 2 tablespoons cold water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Microwave for 15-30 seconds until the gelatin has completely dissolved, then set aside. Beat 2 cups heavy cream using an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the gelatin and beat until stiff peaks form, then use in place of the Cool Whip. No need to add additional sugar for this particular recipe.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

18

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 183 Total Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 11mg Sodium: 73mg Carbohydrates: 23g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 18g Protein: 3g

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