Éclair Cake Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: Carolina Gelen



64 Ratings

  • Prep time 11 hours
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • Serves 9

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Author Notes

A classic French pastry, the invention of the éclair is credited to Marie-Antoine Carême, the same chef known for the croquembouche. Both desserts hinge on pâte à choux—fun fact, choux translates as “cabbage,” which is what the dough looks like when it bakes up, sort of. In the case of éclairs, you pipe a strip of pâte à choux, bake it until puffy, fill with pastry cream (or crème pâtissiere in French), then glaze with icing. Let’s be real: It’s not an easy dessert. As Alice Medrich notes in her guide to éclairs, you have to worry about evenly piping the pâte à choux, whether it’ll puff properly in the oven, and more. The good news: This recipe has all the same components of a chocolate éclair—pastry! custard! ganache!—with way less worry.

This idea popped into my head after coming across a recipe claiming to be an éclair cake—but the components were completely different. Graham crackers, vanilla pudding, and chocolate frosting. It had close to nothing to do with an éclair. And so this actual-éclair cake become my new life mission. The result has all the deliciousness of the pastry with less of the fuss. No more individual portions. Instead, you bake big squares of pâte à choux and fill them with pastry cream like a layer cake. Feels rebellious, but it works! And if the choux doesn’t puff up in the oven, guess what? It’ll get covered in pastry cream and melted chocolate, so who cares?

The pâte à choux portion of this recipe comes from the wonderful Erin McDowell, Food52’s resident baking BFF—check out her full recipe here.

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- de Buyer Reusable Piping Bags (Set of 3)
- de Buyer Stainless Steel Pastry Tips (Set of 26)
- Five Two Ultimate Baking Tool Set
Carolina Gelen

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

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  • Pastry Cream:
  • 1/2 cup(99 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup(37 grams) cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoonkosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups(341 grams) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup(114 grams) heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 2 tablespoons(29 grams) unsalted butter, cubed
  • Pâte à Choux:
  • 1/2 cup(114 grams) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup(57 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon(4 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups(180 grams) bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 5 large eggs (have an extra 2 on hand, just in case)
  • Chocolate Ganache:
  • 1 cup(227 grams) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoonkosher salt
  • 1 cup(170 grams) chopped dark or semisweet chocolate (or chips)
  1. Make the pastry cream: Stir together the sugar, yolks, cornstarch, and salt in a heatproof bowl. Combine the milk, cream, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat and heat until hot. While whisking, slowly stream about half of the hot liquid in the yolk mixture. Pour this tempered yolk mixture into the pot with the rest of the milk mixture (you can pour through a fine-mesh sieve if you're worried about any cooked egg bits). Cook over low to medium-low heat for 4 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until bubbling and thickened like pudding. Turn off the heat, then mix in the butter. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl, discarding any clumps caught in the sieve. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold. (This step can be done up to 2 days in advance.)
  2. Make the pâte à choux: In a medium saucepan, combine ½ cup (114 grams) of water, the milk, butter, and salt. Bring to boil over medium heat. Stir in all of the flour with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes sticky paste and there’s a visible film of starch on the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the flour mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Whisk the eggs in a large liquid measuring cup. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs in slow, steady stream and continue mixing until totally incorporated, about 4 minutes total. Dip the paddle into the batter and lift it up—the batter should form a V shape that eventually breaks away from the batter in the bowl. If the dough is too stiff or pulls away too quickly, add another egg to loosen the consistency.
  3. Bake the pâte à choux: Heat the oven to 375°F. Get out an 8-inch square baking dish. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using the baking dish as a guide, trace two squares with pencil on the parchment, then flip the parchment. Pipe or spread the choux evenly inside those two squares (about 320 grams of pâte à choux per square), leaving a ½-inch or so border for the pastry to expand in the oven and fill out the squares. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. (Don’t open the oven during the first 25 minutes, otherwise the choux will depuff.) Transfer the baked choux squares to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Make the ganache: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and salt. Wait a few minutes, then stir until the chocolate is silky smooth. Let cool until barely warm.
  5. Assemble the éclair cake: If needed, use a pair of scissors to trim the border of the choux squares so they can fit inside the baking dish. Place one choux square at the bottom of the baking dish. Stir the pastry cream to smooth out, then evenly spread that on top. Place the second choux square on top. Spread the chocolate ganache on top. Tightly cover the pan and refrigerate for 10 to 24 hours before slicing and serving.


  • American
  • French
  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla
  • Dessert

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lea

  • Lisa Steele

  • Janet Martin

  • Shelley Santrach

  • Sarah Gladieux

Carolina is a resident at Food52. She's also one of the hosts of Choose Your Own Recipe Adventure, our YouTube show where our Food52 readers pick the ingredients and techniques for a brand new recipe. Carolina recently immigrated to the U.S. from Transylvania, a place she spent most of her life. She continues to get inspired by the classic Romanian and Hungarian foods she was raised on, creating approachable, colorful, and fun recipes. For more cooking ideas and candid moments, check out her Instagram @carolinagelen.

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62 Reviews

5528Mill November 2, 2023

This eclair cake was the best! Instead of two sheets of pate choux, I made one big one and cut it in half. I cut the cake in rectangle pieces and called it E squares or clair squares. Carolina Gelen is wonderful to watch in the kitchen. Thank you for a fantastic dessert everyone loves!

Katie July 3, 2023

Not bad, though my ganache didn’t set. I did not find this easier than individual eclairs and I think the individual ones are a little better. So i wouldn’t make it again.

Lea February 11, 2023

I’ve been making a few different variations of this for 10+ years. My favorite is actually to put strawberries and whipped cream in the middle and crisscross lemon curd and repeat on the top. Beautiful too!!! Was a huge hit at the showers and parties I took it to.

Lisa S. February 11, 2023

Interesting. Sort of like a Boston Cream Pie but with choux dough. I love making eclairs, so I will have to try this!

rosiesaikaly April 1, 2022

I just made this and it came out amazinggg!! Let me tell you a few tips and adjustments I made because I was reading the comments and they were all discouraging regarding multiple things, so i followed some things and didnt others:
1. The comments said to double the pastry cream but not the cornstarch. So, as a medium solution, I added 50% more of the cream ingredients and a bit more of cornstarch. Example: it called for 4 eggs, I added 6 eggs. the recipe calls for 1/3 cup cornstarch I added that 1/3 + a little less than 1/6.
2. the comments said the choux pastry puffed up. Mine was completely fine with following the recipe!
3. the comments said the chocolate ganache was too much for eclairs, so I just halfed the amount.

It came out amazing! highly recommend.
PS: the cream custard does take much longer to harden when you increase its amount, so dont be discourage just keep on staring on that lower heat and maybe listen to a podcast or something while doing it.

Janet M. March 18, 2022

The "pastry cream" is pretty much a simple "boiled" custard--easy and reliably good, but I used 1 tsp vanilla, as we really do like vanilla. After reading all of the negative reviews of the pate a choux, I rolled out some frozen puff pastry into 2 equal sized pieces. My family didn't mind at all that the ganache was a bit thick. In fact they liked that--I did add 1/tsp vanilla to it, also. My version turned out delicious, no complaints from anyone.

LizzieB March 14, 2022

Firstly, love Carolina. Am writing this review to help others if they make this. Loved the idea but the execution is a different story. I did watch the video in its entirety before making this, but still, I wouldn’t make again. I served at a dinner party and eight people agreed (luckily good friends!) it was disappointing.
1. Highly recommend doubling the amount of pastry cream to get it to the thickness that Carolina pictures. One layer is not enough… mine is effectively choux on choux! Considering choux is not tasty… it’s not great. Also suggest flavouring the pastry cream. Zest or booze would go well, as others have indicated.
2. The ganache layer is incredibly thick. Too thick. Ganache on an eclair is a whisper - this is like heavy-handed chocolate frosting on a birthday cake, so it kisses the mark. I wish I had halved it. It also misses the shine ganache usually has, which you can achieve by adding a little neutral oil as it cools. When making ganache, don’t forget to pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and leave it sit for a minute. If you stir too early, you risk the chocolate seizing. Let the cream do the work for you.
3. My choux rose dramatically especially around the edges, even though they were levelled perfectly flat going into the oven. This is because the edges bake first and will always get the most rise as they are cooked for the longest amount of time. Post-bake, I did everything I could to flatten them out, including inverting them in the tin once it was time to assemble (helped a little), but it still meant that layering was uneven.

I hope these tips help the next person, but sadly, it’s a no from us!

Roger K. February 11, 2023

What about making the squares a bit bigger and trimming them? Could you add some flavor to the choux maybe?

Shelley S. March 2, 2022

There is nothing wrong with this recipe, but it is not new. The eclair cake referenced in the article is the no-bake version, Midwesterners have been making this with cream puff dough forever. The only substantial difference is often a packaged pudding is used along with cream cheese, and a purchased chocolate sauce.
While I appreciate the the refinement of the recipe, it is disingenuous to not recognize that it has been around forever. The graham cracker version is much more like a banana pudding. I think it is important to recognize the roots and the wonderful cooks of the past not everything has to be recreated by a chef.

gumrock April 4, 2023

Thank you for this comment, I was able to find a much easier version of this recipe because of it. The cake pictured looks great and I was wanting to make it for my son's birthday, but with my chronic pain this recipe was looking like a challenge. The simpler version is exactly what I need. Have a great day and thank you again

ddhorseranch February 28, 2022

Love this dessert,so easy to make,and the result is fabulous

Phillip February 26, 2022

Love this dessert

Zrinka C. February 25, 2022

I am really sorry but nothing really worked for me. Measurements were completely off. Cream was too thick, puff also and didn’t puff at all. I have enough ganache for 5 cakes. Maybe it’s me but something is not right.

Irene February 22, 2022

I was so excited to make this as I LOVE eclairs. Short story, it was good but not great. Full disclosure, I used my own recipes for the choux and the pastry cream. The recipes I used are reliable and bulletproof. So it’s not the recipes that don’t work, but the whole idea.
The choux layers were too thick and kind of tough and the pastry cream layer squished out when I tried to cut slices and eat them. I did double the pastry cream. The cornstarch amount is about right, not too thick, as you want a thick consistency.
It comes back to the idea of a good sandwich: squishable spreads on squishable breads. You want the consistencies of the “bread” layers and the filling to be closer to one another. I’ll go back to good ol’ Boston cream pie where the cake layers are softer and closer in consistency to the pastry cream layer.
One idea would be to decrease the amount of choux you use (I did weigh the amount as per this recipe). Another idea would be to keep the same amount of choux paste and try to slice the layer in half, though the slicing might be difficult.

Sarah G. February 19, 2022

This was my first time making choux pastry and honestly only my second time making pastry cream. I’m more of a layered cake person. However I wanted the knowledge of knowing how to make choux pastry. I saw this on Instagram and knew this was the recipe I was going to learn. I did a ton of reading and research before making this cake. I watched a lot of youtube videos and compared their recipes of choux and pastry cream to this one. After all that I only had to make one or two slight changes. I did do two choux practice runs but my third one finally came out right! I dod have to trim it to fit my 8x8 pan. The parts I trimmed off tasted awesome. My pastry cream was perfect on the first go and oh man is it thick and smooth and totally delicious! After making the ganache I stuck it in the fridge for like 30 minutes to chill so it wasn’t runny and would be spreadable. It was fantastic! It’s now 3:15am and we are celebrating my mom’s birthday in about 15 hours. I’m so excited to cut into this baby!!!

Darian February 16, 2022

The cake was delicious and very reminiscent of eclairs. My pate a choux worked out very well (I baked in a heart shape for Valentine's Day). The pastry cream was thick but the taste was perfect and once chilled in the cake it was fine. The only issue I had was with the ganache, a full cup of cream left my ganache VERY liquid. I had to toss it and was out of regular chocolate so went with a white chocolate ganache instead. The white chocolate ganache was very good but took the whole cake a little sideways from the regular eclair flavors. Next time I'll reduce the cream with the chocolate to make the ganache. Side note - the cake was pretty easy to slice, but once served it was kind of hard to cut and eat as the layers would kind of slide and the cream would squish out with any pressure. Messy but still yummy! Second side note - that first round of very liquid chocolate was perfect for dipping the scraps of pate a choux!

Sarah G. February 19, 2022

I just finished making this cake at…3am for my mom’s bday later tonight. I made my ganache and stuck it in the fridge for like 25-30 minutes taking it out every 5-10 minutes to stir. After about 30 minutes it was perfectly thick but not too thick that I couldn’t beautifully spread it on top. Just needs to be real chilled!

Janet H. February 15, 2022

I made this for Valentines Day dinner and it was a wow. Only reason for not giving 5 stars is that the choux was tough. Might have been my fault but I've never had it turn out like that using AP flour. I did use bread flour as called for. My alteration was adding grated orange rind and a Tbs. of Grand Marnier to the pastry cream. It was really good!

dana_bate February 14, 2022

I totally wanted to love this because I'm a huge fan of her Insta, and my kids adore eclairs, so I thought this would be easier than filling and icing a big batch. In the end, however, I'd likely just make eclairs next time because this was kind of a mess. Unlike another commenter, I didn't actually compare this to my other choux and pastry cream recipes, but I should have. The choux definitely puffed and was deeply golden, but collapsed everywhere except the edges as it cooled (when I make eclairs, I always poke a hole to let out steam; perhaps I should have done so here?). I was so worried the pastry cream would be eggy based on earlier reviews, but it was the opposite -- very runny! So was the chocolate ganache. When I cut into it, it was a mess and leaked everywhere. Don't get me wrong -- it tasted good, so my kids didn't complain. But I don't think I'd make this again, sadly. (Still love Carolina, though!)

cosmiccook February 13, 2022

Heeding the other reviewers I checked these components against several experts. For pastry cream I went w Dorie Greenspan Baking Chez Moi. I made the mistake of sticking w this recipe's choux. Despite my skepticism about not only the TYPE of flour but amount, I went with it. It didn't cook up like all my previous chouxs. Dorie G., Serious Eats and even Gaston Lenotre's all called for less APF flour & eggs--(unless u made Dorie's chouquettes) & more butter. As far as Erin's extra egg comments--is it 5 eggs total w 2 more on the side or 3 w a 5 total?
Surprised no directions to NOT overbeat the choux--which results in the choux not rising.
I looked at other pastry cream recipes and again, off ratios and ingredients. Fortunately, I went w Dorie's chocolate pastry cream as that's what my husband requested-- The concept of the "cake" however appeals to us.

SE Milk
The choice of milk affects a pastry cream's flavor, body, and texture. I tested whole milk (which is the go-to in the majority of pastry cream recipes) against skim milk, half and half, and heavy cream, and found that there's a good reason why whole milk is the most common. It delivers a full body, rich flavor, and an unrivaled smooth and creamy texture.

The other three couldn’t compete: skim milk was lacking in flavor and loose in texture; half and half was too firm, with an off-putting buttery taste; and heavy cream separated during the cooking process (the fat leeched out, turning the mixture into a greasy mess). I recommend sticking with whole milk for optimal results.

Erin G. February 13, 2022

This turned out so delicious! That said, I think it was still a pretty intense effort and doesn’t look or hold together very neatly. I question if it’s that much easier/better than individual eclairs at the end of the day, but it was fun to make and eat!

jenjenjen February 10, 2022

My husband and I are huge eclair fans, so we made this recipe a couple of days after we saw it on Carolina's Instagram.

A couple of things:

The amount of cream in the photo is about double the amount that the recipe actually makes. If you want a thick layer of cream, I'd recommend doubling the recipe.

Second, the chocolate layer was really thick and overpowered the flavor of the cream and choux. I'd recommend just a thin layer of chocolate to help balance out the flavors.

With those adjustments, I think the cake could be quite delicious. Overall, love the idea of the cake!

Sarah G. February 10, 2022

I’m really excited to make this recipe for my moms birthday next week! I feel like all my time watching Great British Baking Show will help me when making my choux! I know how finicky it can. Your instagram videos really helped too :)

Éclair Cake Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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