Have any guesses for what the above photo is? You’ve almost certainly read the title of this post, so you already know. But play along with me… No, you’re not looking at some funky zebra, or a Jackson Pollock painting, or a Rorschach ink blot test. The above photo is an overhead shot of a half sheet pan of gluten-free chocolate eclair cake. I was drawn to the abstract geometry of it, the way it’s not immediately apparent what you’re looking at, and how there’s nothing in the photo that gives you a sense of scale.
Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, and no matter what you think of the invented commercial holiday, it is a time when I personally think of indulging in a slightly decadent dessert. Chocolate eclair cake definitely fits the bill.
We developed this recipe (and by we, I largely mean Kelli) in response to an email from you, our NGNP readers. From time to time I receive emails that contain requests to develop new recipes. Well, today’s post is living proof that I don’t simply discard those emails. I put those recipe requests on file, and when the time is right, we tackle one or another of them.
Making gluten-free chocolate eclair cake is involved – it includes several major steps – but it is not difficult. If you simply set aside the time to do it right, and tackle one component at a time, at the end of your time in the kitchen you’ll have a delicious sweet waiting for you and your sweetie (and about fifteen other friends, if you make a half sheet pan worth!). Here’s how to make the dessert:
Eclair Pastry Dough
The eclair consists of four layers: pastry dough, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It all starts by making a gluten-free version of choux pastry (also known as Pate a choux).
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup salted butter
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Artisan GF Flour Blend
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Add the water, butter, sugar and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
3. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once, and stir vigorously until it forms a dough ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot.
4. Transfer the dough to a stand mixer and beat with a paddle on low speed until the dough cools (it will still be warm to the touch).
5. Add the eggs very slowly on medium speed and beat until they’re completely absorbed.
6. Spread the pastry dough in an ungreased half sheet pan.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden brown on top. (Don’t worry about any bubbles that form in the dough. They’ll go down as the cake cools.)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 cups milk
1 tbsp salted butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
8 oz cream cheese
1. Mix together the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.
2. Add the milk to the sugar and cornstarch, and heat on medium-high until you reach a full boil. Boil for 2 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Temper the eggs by slowly adding about 1/3 of the milk mixture to the eggs while continuing to whisk. Then slowly return the tempered eggs back into the pot and the remaining milk mixture. (This is very important to avoid instantly scrambling your eggs in the heat of the milk mixture.)
4. Return the pot to the heat and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble.
5. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 2 more minutes.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
7. Chill in the refrigerator.
8. Meanwhile, bring the cream cheese to room temperature.
9. With the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, whip the cream cheese until fluffy. Then add the pudding and mix at high speed until smooth.
Whipped Cream and Chocolate Sauce
Make a double batch of whipped cream (found in our cookbook alongside the Angel Food Cake recipe). Because other parts of the eclair are quite sweet, feel free to leave your whipped cream less sweet by using less confectioner’s sugar.
Make a single batch of chocolate sauce (found in our cookbook alongside the Dessert Crepes recipe).
1. You already have your half sheet pan of eclair pastry as the base.
2. Spread the vanilla pudding in an even layer.
3. Ditto with the whipped cream.
4. Drizzle the chocolate sauce back and forth across the top of the eclair cake.
5. For a final artistic touch, use a toothpick, knife, edge of a spatula, whatever, and drag it through the chocolate sauce and whipped cream (90 degrees to the direction you drizzled the chocolate).
Voila! All that’s left to do is slice, serve, and enjoy. (Unless you went really overboard with the chocolate, you’ll have some chocolate sauce leftover. It is DELICIOUS over a nice bowl of French Vanilla ice cream.)
P.S. If you find the steps in making scratch chocolate eclair cake too daunting, there are some shortcuts you can take to make your life easier: use instant vanilla pudding, ready-made whipped topping, and ready-made chocolate sauce/syrup. Just always check to make sure the products you’re using are gluten-free.