Chocolate Eclair Bars (Feed a Crowd version)

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An old-fashioned recipe made by generations with creamy pudding layered on top of soft graham crackers and topped with a homemade chocolate topping. This version is made on a cookie sheet to create a bar format that stretches the recipe to feed a crowd (like my family was ;)). Note: keep reading for some fun old photos of my family!

chocolate eclair bars with milk

My favorite place to be as a child was my grandparents home. My grandma and grandpas home was always full of good food, happy noises, and great places to curl up with a book and hide.

making old-fashioned chocolate eclair bars
My little sister Tessa and Gma. Gosh…13-14 years ago?

My grandma had a handful of recipes she made year after year, for the holidays. She was a master at taking classic recipes and stretching them to feed her giant family (my father was 1 of 6 and I was, of course, the oldest of 10—my grandma had a clan!).

One of those recipes was the old-fashioned chocolate eclair cake. Usually made with multiple layers in a 9 by 13 pan, this recipe creates only a single layer in a cookie sheet allowing a single recipe to feed aLOT of people. And honestly, this dessert is so rich, so creamy, and so wonderful…the smaller size is needed!

chocolate eclair bars that feed a crowd
See if you can find my Gma, my bro (#2), and Nate. Missing is my bro (#4) who was in Iraq.

Many holiday mornings when my parents were still sleeping (although really, with 10 kids wouldn’t YOU take advantage of other people watching your kids :). I would!), I would head to the kitchen and help my grandma get this recipe ready for the holiday meal.

a pan of old-fashioned chocolate eclair bars

She would let me gather the milk and butter, sometimes even pour the milk into the measuring glass, and ALWAYS let me stir and stir the chocolate topping while pretending to ignore my little finger dips and licks. Only I got to do the chocolate topping because I was the oldest.

chocolate eclair bars recipe

Luckily, this recipe uses a good amount of milk (maybe why she chose it?) that let EACH big kid pour a cup of milk into the recipe. The little kids lined the pan with the grahams, eating what was left in the package. Somehow she always needed 2 pkgs opened and OOPS…didn’t need that many! And “oh my gosh, how did she manage to get a cinnamon graham”. Clever, grandma, clever.

recipe for chocolate eclair cake turned into bars

And the BEST PART…we often stuck that pan of dessert out on the porch instead of the fridge. Minnesota has its perks, after all.

a cookie sheet version of chocolate eclair bars

Sometimes grandma would ask one of us to run out to the porch to “check on the dessert”. Of course that was absolute nonsense. But we would run out in the cold, pretend to look hard, and then come back in shivering and say “a little bit longer” like we had any idea what we were looking for. She would nod like we were very wise.

Today, I often half the recipe still using a cookie sheet (a half-sheet) and always always grab whole milk at Target for this recipe. It is, after all, the way Grandma did it and that will always be the best way. Plus, those sweet memories sneak in while I’m making this recipe. Friends, the recipes tied to good memories are always the best ones…..aren’t they!

Quick quiz. Did you know…

Dairy foods provide a powerful nutrient package. Three of the nutrients found in dairy –vitamin A, vitamin D and protein –are essential for a healthy immune function. AND: Due to innovative practices in cow comfort, improved feed and genetics, and modern barn design, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk in 2017 shrunk significantly, requiring 30% less water, 21% less land and a 19% smaller carbon footprint than it did in 2007.

I’m pretty sure my Grandma would be so proud!

My sweet grandparents when Katie was a baby.

Can you make your own pudding?

Of course! In fact, I often do. You need enough vanilla pudding to equal about 4 cups. And friend, be sure to use a great dairy product when making your pudding! Whole milk gives the pudding a rich flavor that works wonderfully in this dessert.

Can you skip the frozen whipped topping?

Yes, but it is a bit trickier than skipping the pudding. Because this dessert gets its yummy flavor from hanging out in the fridge for a long time, you need a whipped topping that is stable and won’t get runny on you. You’ll need to use gelatin in your whipped topping to create that. It isn’t hard but it CAN be intimidating. Truly though, nothing beats good heavy cream whipped topping!

Can I purchase my chocolate frosting?

Of course! Simply warm it in the microwave before pouring it on. But be warned, it isn’t nearly as good as this chocolate frosting recipe made with real dairy ingredients!

Click here for more recipes with dairy!

Click the image below to grab the ingredients needed for this recipe in one easy step!

 

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5 from 5 votes

Chocolate Eclair Bars (no-bake recipe that feeds a crowd!)

Classic no bake chocolate eclair cake is stretched to bar format to feed a crowd!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate, christmas dessert, dessert, nobake
Prep Time 15 minutes
Chilling time 12 hours
# of servings 24 bars
Calories 280kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1.5 pkgs graham crackers
  • 2 3.5oz. pkgs instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 16oz container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Line a cookie sheet with a single layer of graham crackers.
  • Whisk the instant pudding mix and 3 cups of whole milk together until thick and smooth.
  • Fold in the whipped topping and sour cream into the pudding mix.
  • Gently spread the pudding mixture on top of the graham crackers.
  • Add another layer of graham crackers.
  • In a medium microwave safe bowl beat the butter until creamy.
  • Slowly add the milk (cover the bowl and mixer with a cloth to prevent splattering, if needed).
  • Beat in the vanilla and salt.
  • A little bit at a time, add the cocoa and beat well between additions (again use a cloth to cover the bowl and mixer to prevent splattering, if needed.)
  • Repeat the process with the powdered sugar stopping to scrape the sides, if needed.
  • Warm the finished frosting in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until it easy easy to spread (you want it to have the texture of sour cream or salad dressing).
  • Pour the frosting on the top of your pudding mixture and gently spread to cover all of the pudding.
  • Cover the cake (I use toothpicks inserted into the cake to help keep the plastic wrap from sticking to the frosting) and chill overnight, longer if possible.

Nutrition

Calories: 280kcalCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 4gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 308mgPotassium: 142mgFiber: 2gSugar: 23gVitamin A: 351IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 74mgIron: 1mg

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12 thoughts on “Chocolate Eclair Bars (Feed a Crowd version)”

  1. 5 stars
    Just made this over the weekend and it is absolutely delicious! Very easy to make and even better because it’s “no bake” :) .
    Definitely take her word on using a towel to cover the mixer while mixing the cocoa & powdered sugar though or else you’ll have quite the mess! Haha! Fun to make though and I feel like it’s such a perfect dessert to whip up for any occasion whether it’s for a get together with friends or a special treat on any holiday. The chocolate frosting is so delicious but if ever in a bind or hurry, I could see store bought frosting working just as well (but as she said, definitely not as amazing!). My son and husband kept trying to eat the frosting alone while I was trying to make it! I will definitely be making this again in the future and will recommend this recipe to anyone.

    The only thing I would change is there was a little confusion towards the end of the recipe where it said to spread the chocolate frosting over the pudding instead of the second layer of graham crackers but I see it’s been mentioned/ corrected. :)

  2. 5 stars
    This is fantastic!! It’s so easy that my kids can do it, but so yummy that everyone wants the recipe. I love how you take us through each step. I actually halved everything to make a smaller size and that worked perfectly. Thanks for another stellar recipe!!!!

  3. 5 stars
    Simple enough for my 7 year old to make! Put it in a covered 8 x 11 tupperware and seemed to use more Graham Crackers…. But maybe different brands have different sizes. We also used a store bought can of chocolate and warmed and poured. Saved a little cool whip for garnishing. It’s now cooling in our “MN refrigerator”.

  4. Ok who doesn’t love an eclair! This recipe just means everyone gets more! A great old fashioned recipe that’s so yummy!

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