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This no-bake Easy Chocolate Eclair Cake is the recipe my mom used to make, and one of my family’s favorites. Inspired by the chocolate eclair cake Portillo’s serves, it comes together in about ten minutes—all you have to do is make it the day before you need it, put it down on the table with some forks, and get out of the way.
This cake used to be one of the most popular desserts at the potlucks of my childhood, so I thought it deserved a revisit.
You don’t have to be a baker to layer graham crackers with pudding and whipped topping, and then slather everything in rich chocolate frosting.
Overnight, the refrigerator does all the hard work for you, softening those layers into a perfectly sweet, creamy, chocolatey cake that tastes like you worked much harder than you did.
Need to make a double or triple batch for a wild party? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What is Chocolate Eclair Cake?
It’s an old-fashioned sheet cake that requires no baking and is reminiscent of a chocolate-coated, creamy eclair. Made for generations, it uses graham crackers, pudding, whipped topping, and your favorite chocolate frosting.
How do you make Chocolate Eclair Cake?
This is just a guide to how you assemble it. The full recipe is at the bottom of the post.
- In a bowl, mix the pudding and milk together until smooth.
- Then, gently fold in the whipped topping.
- Alternate layers of graham crackers and pudding mixture in a baking dish.
- Top with chocolate frosting. Chill.
Can you make Chocolate Eclair Cake without cool whip?
This recipe is definitely not from scratch, but if you would rather use whipped cream folded in to the pudding instead of the topping, that is absolutely fine. It may be a little softer than the whipped topping, but a few minutes in the freezer to firm it up before cutting is all it takes.
Can you make Chocolate Eclair Cake with canned frosting?
Yes, you can. Really, store bought chocolate frosting really works for this cake! I warm my tub of prepared frosting in the microwave for 20 seconds, stir, then spread. It spreads much easier.
Can you make Chocolate Eclair Cake with ganache?
I can’t think of anything more delicious than making your own thick ganache to pour over this graham crackers.
If you prefer chocolate ganache instead of store-bought chocolate frosting, you’re in luck. You only need 3 ingredients to make a rich, silky-smooth ganache (recipe courtesy of Ina Garten).
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (I found this at Target)
- Combine all ingredients in a double-boiler and whisk until smooth.
- Pour while still warm over final layer and allow to cool.
What are some Chocolate Eclair Cake variations?
The beauty of this recipe and so many other refrigerator no-bake sheet cakes is that it’s easy to tweak them into something different and downright fabulous for the people you love. Here are some great twists on the classic:
- Sugar-free, low-fat Chocolate Eclair Cake: use low-fat graham crackers, sugar-free pudding with skim milk and fat-free cool whip.
- Chocolate Eclair Cake with peanut butter: Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter to the pudding and milk, and top the frosting with chopped roasted peanuts.
- Pistachio Chocolate Eclair Cake: Substitute pistachio pudding (who can resist that light green color?) and top the frosting with chopped pistachios.
- Chocolate Vanilla Eclair Cake: Substitute 1 box chocolate pudding and 1 box vanilla pudding. Prepare the two flavors separately and make the bottom layer chocolate pudding.
- Chocolate Eclair Cake with bananas: Substitute banana pudding and top the frosting with chopped banana chips or toasted walnuts.
- Gluten-free Chocolate Eclair Cake: Substitute gluten-free graham crackers for an easy gluten-free dessert everyone will adore.
- Chocolate Eclair Cake with saltines: Love that sweet/salty combo? Make this cake with Club crackers, saltines, or some other crispy, salty cracker.
- Chocolate Eclair Cake with vanilla wafers: Vanilla wafers stand in for graham crackers any day of the week.
How far in advance do you make Chocolate Eclair Cake?
Give this cake at least 8 hours, but those who have infinite amounts of patience make it 24 hours in advance. Good luck waiting!
Can Chocolate Eclair Cake be frozen?
If you’re aiming for picture-perfect cut squares of cake, it helps to freeze the cake before cutting. But if you need to freeze this cake, wrap it tightly in foil and store in a zip-top plastic bag to store in the freezer. It should keep well up to two months. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator.
Chocolate Eclair Cake
- 2 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix (see note 1)
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1 (8 ounce) container whipped topping thawed (see note 2)
- 1 box graham crackers
- 1 can dark chocolate frosting (see note 3)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together pudding mix and milk until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
- Line bottom of a 9-inch x 13-inch pan with a single layer of graham crackers, breaking some if necessary to fill the layer. Pour half the pudding mixture over the crackers and spread evenly.
- Top with another layer of crackers. Pour the remaining pudding mixture over the second layer of crackers and top with a third layer of crackers.
- Carefully spread the frosting over the top layer of graham crackers. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Serve chilled and store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator.
- Instant vanilla pudding: If you prefer from-scratch, unprocessed food, you could make Homemade Pastry Cream to use instead of the pudding.
- Whipped topping: Or substitute Homemade Whipped Cream for the frozen whipped topping.
- Chocolate frosting: I warm my tub of prepared frosting in the microwave for 20 seconds, then stir. It spreads much easier. Feel free to substitute Homemade Chocolate Frosting if you prefer that.
- Yield: This recipe yields one 9-inch by 13-inch Eclair cake. Your actual servings vary depending on how you cut the slices, but I usually aim for 20 pieces.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The crackers continue to soften in the best way possible (I personally prefer this cake after it sits for at least 24 hours).
- Make ahead: The cake can be made up to 2 days in advance; the graham crackers continue to soften but that's a good thing.
- Freezer: To freeze Eclair Cake, wrap it tightly in a double layer of foil and plastic. Label, date, and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.
It’s scrumptious and my husband loves it! I used almond milk. And it came out just a bit runny – I’ll cut down on the milk next time.
Had a hard time spreading the frosting, so I put it in the fridge to set first, but still challenging. Any tips? Thanks
Hi Pam, sorry you’re having trouble with the frosting. I like to microwave the frosting to soften it up before spreading over the cake. I’ll update the recipe to include a note about that! Sorry for it not being clear. Take care! – Meggan
Omg, I just finished frosting the top and realized I forgot the whipped topping! Can I do anything?
Hi Heather! I would just enjoy the cake as-is. The pudding will be denser without the whipped topping, but it will still soften the crackers and it will be fine. Assuming you like vanilla pudding. :) The world won’t end and you’ll be fine! Maybe serve with a dollop of whipped topping on top? That’s what I’d do! I hope it works out and you aren’t sad. I’m pulling for you! Hugs – Meggan
Megan I’m writing back to explain about making a chocolate eclair cake is that I wanted to know if you can’t get vanilla pudding for the layers of the cake, would it be ok to use chocolate pudding for the layers of the cake instead, then use vanilla cake frosting for the top layer of the cake?
Hi George, thank you so much for writing back! I don’t see why not! It may come out a little less “chocolatey” using regular instant chocolate pudding. Sounds delicious! – Meggan
Chocolate eclair cake isn’t bad that choice for some of us crave for, but I like to know if you can top off the top with vanity cake frosting instead? The vanilla cake frosting that I brought from target was delicious for a different cake I was making and it was very vanilla flavor great ,so I want something in vanilla so can you do so?
Hi George, I’m sorry but I’m not sure what vanity cake frosting is. Sorry about that! I wouldn’t want your cake to turn out terribly. – Meggan
I messed up and got the “cook and serve” pudding instead of instant. Can I still use this? and it calls for 2 cups of milk for each box, do I just make it like it says or lessen the milk?
Hi Sheri, I haven’t tried it myself, but if I were to, I would make the pudding as directed, and one set, fold in the whipped topping. I’m not sure that the layering would be as solid like with instant pudding. If you do try it, please stop back by and let me know how it turned out! – Meggan
I know I’m crazy late on this comment but incase anyone else were wondering… I made this same mistake. It turned out fine. It’s frustrating waiting for the pudding to set versus the instant being ready in 5 minutes but it will definitely still work. 🙂
Hi i was wondering if you have a homemade chocolate recipe for the eclair instead of the canned frosting?
Hi Beth, I do have a recipe! Here it is: https://www.culinaryhill.com/chocolate-frosting/ Hope you enjoy the cake! – Meggan
I saw this recipe, bought all the ingredients then lost the recipe! Thank you for making it easy to find… about to make it now, hope I can keep my honey out of it till tomorrow! Looks amazing!
i HAVE YET TO MAKE IT, HOWEVER PLAN TO DO SO FOR OUR FAMILY DINNER FOR CHRISTMAS
I have made this twice now, and the only change I think I might make is to do thinner layers with more graham crackers to give the cake a little more shape and substance, maybe just a third layer, nothing crazy. I also make it with the ganache – I use Ghirardelli semi-sweet 60% cacao chocolate chips and it’s amazing.
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