Friday, August 16, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Éclair Cake (with Vegan Vanilla pudding and Chocolate Glaze)

Vegan Chocolate Eclair Cake
If you’ve never heard of a Chocolate Éclair Cake before, I must warn you that it is neither an éclair nor a cake. Instead it is a one of those classic assembled desserts that combine various types of instant pudding, whipped topping and other prepackaged foods to a very tasty if not necessarily nutritious or sophisticated effect. These nostalgic recipes are often somewhat troublesome to veganize because of all those inflexible prepackaged ingredients.

The traditional recipe involves mixing prepared instant vanilla pudding with whipped topping, and then layering the mixture with graham crackers and finally topping the whole thing with an entire jar (!) of melted chocolate frosting and chilling overnight.

To veganize it, I whipped up a quick from scratch vegan vanilla pudding in place of the instant pudding (although you may actually be able to find a vegan brand if you like) and replaced that jar of frosting with a light, not-too-sweet chocolate glaze. For the whipped topping, I actually have a local source for a store-bought vegan whipped topping called Smackin’ Whip, so I used it. However, homemade would have worked okay for that too. For a discussion of homemade vegan cool whip strategies and a recipe, look here. I also replaced the graham crackers, which are sometimes difficult to find honey-free, with gingersnaps. Any other thin, crunchy cookie would work too.

With all these homemade components, there’s the issue of taking a very quick and easy recipe and making it much harder and more involved. I compensated for this by making some of the components (such as the pudding) on different days in larger batches, and then assembling the leftovers into this dessert. The final result was therefore not too time or energy intensive.

Vegan Chocolate Éclair Cake

2 cups chilled Vegan Vanilla Pudding (recipe follows)
1 ½ cups vegan whipped topping
30-36 gingersnaps (enough to line the pan three times)
1 recipe Chocolate Glaze (see below)

1st layer of cookies

Line the bottom of an 8 by 8 inch baking pan with 1/3 of the gingersnaps, breaking some of them if necessary.

Mixing the pudding and whipped topping

Fold the vanilla pudding and whipped topping together.

Spread half of the resulting mixture in an even layer over the gingersnaps. Lay a second layer of cookies over the pudding. Pour on the second half of the pudding mixture.
Arrange the final layer of cookies on top, then pour on the chocolate glaze and smooth with a spatula. The top can be decorated with sprinkles or toasted coconut if you like.

Covered with glaze and ready to chill

Chill overnight and cut into squares to serve.

Vegan Vanilla Pudding:

Vegan Vanilla Pudding
2 cups vanilla or plain soymilk
1/3 cup sugar or sweetener
2 ½ Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 tsp oil (margarine would be okay too)

Mix together sugar/sweetener, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Add about ¼ cup of soymilk and stir into a smooth paste, mashing any clumps. Whisk in the rest of the soymilk and bring to a simmer over medium heat (or medium low if your stove runs hot). Stir constantly. Simmer 3-5 minutes, until thickened with large bubbles forming. The pudding should be a little thinner than you like because it will continue to thicken as it cools
Simmering away
Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla and oil. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least a few hours.

The flavors, such as spices and extracts could be varied as much as you want. Ground cinnamon or coconut extract would be particularly nice.
The amount or type of thickener can be changed as well if you prefer a different texture or have a corn allergy. Potato starch or arrowroot can be substituted for the cornstarch 1 for 1.

Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup water
½ cup sugar or sweetener
¼ cup cocoa or carob powder
2 Tbsp cornstarch 
pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp vegan chocolate or carob chips (more if you like)

Vegan Chocolate Glaze
Whisk together sugar/sweetener, cornstarch, salt and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continually. Simmer about 2 minutes, or until thickened. Pull off the heat and stir in vanilla and chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate melts, then pour on top of the éclair dessert.

This recipe can also be used as a cake glaze, or a hot fudge sauce.

I like this Chocolate Eclair Cake quite a bit. It was creamy and refreshing on a hot day, and convenient to make ahead. 

Chocolate Eclair Cake

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