Chocolate éclair cake is an instant dessert classic; this no-bake cake features layers of store-bought vanilla pudding and Cool Whip sandwiched between graham crackers and topped off with chocolate frosting.

As the graham crackers soften, the whole thing melds into a creamy, sliceable cake. We loved the ease of these convenience items, but our enthusiasm waned when confronted by their flavor. With a couple of easy techniques and very little active time, we produced a from-scratch version that easily trumped its inspiration.

Since the cake layers required no more work than lining a pan with graham crackers, we made the effort to prepare a quick stovetop vanilla pudding, folding in whipped cream to lighten it.

For the éclair topping, we created a simple microwave-and-stir glaze. Six ounces of finely chopped semisweet chocolate can be used in place of the chips.

CHOCOLATE ÉCLAIR CAKE

Servings: 15

Start to finish: 3 1/2 hours plus cooling time

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar

6 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

5 cups whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

5 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons water

2 3/4 cups heavy cream, chilled

14 ounces graham crackers

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

5 tablespoons light corn syrup

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in large saucepan. Whisk milk into sugar mixture until smooth and bring to boil over medium-high heat, scraping bottom of pan with heatproof rubber spatula. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and cook, continuing to scrape bottom, until thickened and large bubbles appear on surface, 4 to 6 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer pudding to large bowl and place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding. Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.

Sprinkle gelatin over water in bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, 15 to 30 seconds. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Add gelatin mixture and whip until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.

3 Whisk one-third of whipped cream into chilled pudding, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream, 1 scoop at a time, until combined. Cover bottom of 13-by-9 inch baking dish with layer of graham crackers, breaking crackers as necessary to line bottom of pan. Top with half of pudding-whipped cream mixture (about 5 1/2 cups) and another layer of graham crackers. Repeat with remaining pudding-whipped cream mixture and remaining graham crackers.

Combine chocolate chips, corn syrup, and remaining 3/4 cup cream in bowl and microwave on 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Let glaze cool completely, about 10 minutes. Spread glaze evenly over graham crackers and refrigerate cake for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

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Nutrition information per serving: 469 calories; 227 calories from fat; 25 g fat (14 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 68 mg cholesterol; 334 mg sodium; 58 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 40 g sugar; 6 g protein.

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For more recipes, cooking tips and ingredient and product reviews, visit https://www.americastestkitchen.com . Find more recipes like Chocolate Eclair Cake in "The Perfect Cake ."

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America's Test Kitchen provided this article to The Associated Press.

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