Monday, April 22, 2013

We call it Chocolate Éclair Cake. You will call it Delicious.

I wanted to do something nice for our neighbors who gave us a free, almost-new sand table. And what do you do when you want to do something nice for someone you don’t know very well? You give them home cooked baked yumminess.

For as long as I can remember, my mom has made these delicious pie/cake/pudding things for every family event, every holiday, every get together. We call them Chocolate Éclair cakes, but I suppose there are many names and even more variations out there. Today, I give you ours. Make it now. Thank me later.

My mom makes these with a walnut crust that is A. MA. ZING. But our neighbors have two kids, and you never know who’s allergic to nuts these days, so I made my cake with a pretzel crust instead. It tasted good, but I like the walnut crust better. So I’ll give you the recipe for both.

This recipe makes one 9”x13” cake, or two 8”x8” cakes, or two 8” round cakes. If you’re making two smaller cakes, simply make each layer below and divide them up evenly between the two pans and share the love.

Layer #1: The Crust

For a pretzel crust, you will need:

2 ½ cups stick pretzels
1 stick of butter
3 tablespoons of sugar

Put the pretzels in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and crush them up with a rolling pin, but not so much that they turn to dust, and then empty the bag into a medium bowl. Mix in the sugar with a fork. Melt the butter and mix it in with a spoon. Spread out the crust in a greased pan, using your fingers or the back of a spoon to press it into the corners and make sure a thin, even layer covers the whole pan. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes and allow to cool completely.

For a walnut crust, you will need:

1 stick softened butter
1 cup flour
½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Mix all ingredients together with a spoon or your hands. Spread thinly in the bottom of a greased pan as described above. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes and allow to cool completely.
Both crusts can be made up to one day before and kept in the refrigerator.

Layer #2: Cream Cheese Goodness

You will need:

2 8-oz. bars of cream cheese, softened (Please use the full-fat version. Now is not the time for calorie counting. It will just make you sad.)
1 cup Cool Whip
1 cup powdered sugar

Beat all ingredients together in a bowl and spoon evenly on top of cooled crust. Spread it out with a rubber spatula.

Layer #3: Pudding. Nuff said.

You will need:

3 ½ cups milk
2 small boxes of chocolate instant pudding (Or any flavor you want, but really, why would you use any other flavor? Wait, are you one of those weird tapioca people? You’re killing me.)

Beat/stir the milk and pudding mix together until smooth. If it’s lumpy, add a teeny bit more milk. DO NOT follow the directions on the back of the pudding mix boxes, or your pudding layer will be too runny. You’ll need it to be thicker and sturdier for these cakes. Spoon the pudding on top of the cream cheese layer and spread it out with a rubber spatula.

Layer #4: Everybody loves Cool Whip

You will need:

The remainder of the Cool Whip in the container

Spoon the rest of the Cool Whip on top of the pudding layer and spread it out with a rubber spatula. Then get creative and decorate the top. If you made a walnut crust, sprinkle it with chopped walnuts. If you made a pretzel crust, sprinkle it with some additional crushed pretzel dust. Other options are mini chocolate chips, chocolate shavings, cocoa powder, sliced strawberries, or zig-zag some raspberry sauce across the top. Go bananas. (Oooh, sliced bananas would be good, too…)

Store the cake in the fridge and eat it within a day or two (yeah, like it won’t be gone before that). After a couple days, the layers start to melt together. To me, the cake actually tastes better the second day after it’s had a chance to firm up. That makes the presentation a bit better, too, as the layers stay separate when you cut into it.

But if you can’t bear to wait a day before you slice into this bad boy, that’s okay (and completely understandable). Messy is still delicious.