Selecting a pastry from the bakery case felt like an awesome responsibility as a child. I did not take this task lightly, carefully eyeing the frosted cupcakes and the craggy-topped muffins and the gooey chocolate cookies. No amateur in the sugar realm, I’d skip past the biscotti and other similarly austere and adult desserts to land on the cakes and petit four sections. But no matter how decadent the offerings, if I saw an éclair behind the glass window, I’d always be sold.
An éclair is, arguably, a perfect dessert. Given its French origins, that’s no surprise. The French know their pastry. There’s the textural contrast: creamy, crunchy, and gooey. There’s the balance of flavor between the smooth pastry cream, the intense chocolate glaze, and the just-barely-sweet pâte à choux shell. Every bite marries this trifecta of glaze, filling, and shell.
Could I make eclairs at home? Yes, absolutely. While complicated in theory, each element of a classic éclair is perfectly manageable for a home baker. Make a great pastry cream: check. Make a basic pâte à choux dough: check. Make a chocolate ganache: check. But if you’re as into eclairs as I am, there’s no reason not to take your love affair a little further.
This may sound like a stretch to you: éclair pound cake. Stick with me though! You don’t have the textural contrast as much, but what you do get is fantastic in its own right: a tender, close-crumbed, dense pound cake with a hint of vanilla and a wonderful, custardy flavor that’s reminiscent of pastry cream. I achieve this by adding both condensed milk and custard powder to the batter.
To top it off, there’s a thick and luscious chocolate ganache glaze. When you’re craving the creamy chocolate + custard + buttery, eggy pastry trifecta, give this cake a shot instead. It's less fussy, but you still get those perfect flavors.
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons custard powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup chopped dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
What other desserts would you like to eclair-ify? Let us know in the comments!