Chocolate Eclair Dessert

Chocolate Eclair DessertDid you ever try a food or a certain dish that those around you at the time couldn’t believe you had never had it before?  Were you in college when you took your first bite of cold pizza while surrounded by cold pizza eating veterans?  Maybe you were introduced to Cool Whip at a friends house in Junior High.  Perhaps your In-Laws were the first to ever put a plate of tuna noodle casserole (with crushed potato chips on top) in front of you at the supper table.  And don’t tell me you have never had lime green jello with pineapple floating in it and carrots shredded on top!!  The last one seems to be some kind of old lady right of passage in Minnesota.

*Side Note* I asked my husband this question and after some thought, he  replied, “When I was in Japan (on leave) the lady at the cafe couldn’t believe I had never had fried balls of squid before.”  I gave him a bland look and kept typing…

Back on track with the subject at hand here, what I mean to say is this dessert was one of those for me.  The first time I ever had this, I was 16 and working in the 4-H building at the MN State Fair and I was making it for 400 people.  I was also the only one who had never had it.  It is a fairly common dessert, I was told, but I had never heard of it, let alone eaten any before.  And ooooooooooh man was I missing out.  If you have never had it, it really does take like a chocolate eclair!!!!  I don’t know what kind of magic the pudding and cream work on the graham crackers that make it taste like pastry, but however it happens, its delightful.

If this recipe, or one similar, is common knowledge to you, and you grew up eating this at potlucks and church functions, well then all I can say is that I am jealous.  Jealous of the years I missed out.  As it is, I rarely make it because it makes a full 9X13 pan and I cannot.  say.  no.  when I eat this.  I try to only make it for a crowd and the holiday season is the perfect time.  You have to make it ahead of time and it requires no last minute steps.  I recently served it two weekends in a row at two separate occasions, and sadly, there was little left either time.  I have been trying to figure out how to justify making it for the third time in two weeks, but until I do, these pictures will have to suffice.  Granted, its no jello and carrot salad.  But definitely better than cold pizza.
Chocolate Eclair Dessert Chocolate Eclair Dessert Just chillin on our cold screen porch.
Chocolate Eclair Dessert Chocolatey goodness.
IMG_6092 Chocolate Eclair Dessert Chocolate Eclair Dessert IMG_6140 One Year Ago: White Chocolate Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake
Two Years Ago: Potato Gratin
Three Years Ago: Hot Chocolate #1 & Indian Summer Chili 

Chocolate Eclair Dessert
Adapted from the MN 4-H Cafeteria Archives
With most recipes, I prefer to use real whipped cream, but the store bought kind help this dessert hold its shape better.  If you are in a pinch, go ahead and use a can of store bought chocolate fudge or dark chocolate frosting.  But I highly recommend making it yourself.  It makes all the difference!

1 box of honey graham crackers-the cinnamon ones have too bold a flavor
1-5 oz box of instant vanilla pudding mix-french vanilla and cheesecake flavors are OK too
1-8oz container of whipped topping
1 can chocolate frosting (if you are really desperate) or see recipe below

Prepare the instant pudding mix 1/2 c of milk shy of  the package directions.  For most brands, this is 2 1/2 c of milk total. Whisk and chill.  When smooth and thick and cold, gently fold in the container of whipped topping.  Line the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan (glass, ceramic or whatever) with whole graham crackers, cutting or breaking to fit if necessary until completely covered.  Pour half the pudding and cream mixture over the crackers, spreading flat.  Add one more single layer of whole graham crackers, filling all spaces.  Pour on the second half of the pudding mixture and top on last time with whole graham crackers. Do NOT try and save time frosting it now.  Uber messy.  Cover and chill several hours until very cold, THEN  frost with chocolate fudge frosting.  Chill until ready to serve and cut into large squares with a sharp knife.  Lift out each piece using a second spatula to help slide them off on to the plates.  This way they will stay perfect and square!  Store tightly sealed in the fridge for up to two days.

Chocolate Frosting
I can’t even remember the last time I bought frosting from a store.  And why would you when you have this one to use?  This frosting is dark and chocolatey, which is a flavor must for this recipe, but feel free to use in on any 9X13 sized cake you are making!  The cocoa adds amazing dark chocolate flavor but is much easier that chopping and melting a block of chocolate.

1/4 c (4 T) soft butter
1 c cocoa powder, preferably sifted (1/2 regular cocoa and half dark cocoa is quite fantastic in this recipe)
3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c milk, or more

Mix the first three ingredients, adding a splash of the milk to help them go together.  Keep adding tiny splashes of milk until it gets to the consitencey you are looking for.  Beat with a whisk till smooth.  Leave it nice and thick but just barely spreadable.  You don’t want it too soft on the dessert.  Remember, it will firm up when you chill the whole thing, hence, easy to cut!