Cake Batter Éclairs

There is a bakery a few towns away that I absolutely love called Sook Pastry. In a way I’m glad it’s not too nearby because I would frequent it more than necessary. There are many great baked goods that they offer, but my favorite is the awesome chocolate èclairs.  They are not too sweet or rich but are satisfyingly chocolaty with the perfect shell.I don’t know at what point I became such a pastry snob. I remember eating boxes of Entenmann’s chocolate èclairs and being satisfied as a kid. But when I picked up a box for the nostalgia factor, it was horrifically disappointing. The too-squishy bland base, the lack of custard filling and the low quality chocolate topping made me wonder, “WHY?!” I guess I can argue that the costs of ingredients are higher and manufacturers have to cut down on quality in order to keep the costs low. Remember when they changed the recipe for the chewy chips ahoy? That was another sad day. Anyways, the point is, I guess I’d rather eat just one great éclair than a whole box full of them.
Turns out, baking a great éclair is not as easy as it looks. The hurdle is the choux dough base. I’ve made cream puffs (which are also made out of choux dough) many times before. Remember the croquembouche? I had trays and trays of cream puffs that time. The problem was it was not sturdy enough for an éclair. They would flatten and look sad, no matter what technique I tried (using the tines of a fork, using a star tipped frosting tip to pipe out the batter, letting the base cook in the oven longer to ensure dry interiors…). So I went to google and did some research.
Luckily Ilan from the ironwhisk already did the research and created a great choux paste tutorial for èclairs. My only gripe with recipe was that it produced a shell that was too salty. Even when I waived the salt in the filling, the saltiness was overpowering. I suggest cutting the salt in half to ensure a better balanced éclair.
I originally baked this for my third blog anniversary, and that’s why there are so many decorative sprinkles that scream “celebration!” hahaha I know, I’m approaching the fourth anniversary around the corner and I’m posting this now. Smh. Please, feel free to use any type of sprinkle, sanding sugar, sugar pearls, and nonpareils that you might have. My sprinkles container is over capacity and I am now resorting to ziplock freezer bags to hold the rest of them. I may have a hoarding problem with them, but they were perfect for this post in particular.
To go with the “celebration” theme, I also made the filling cake batter flavored because what better way to celebrate than with cake? A few spoonful of cake mix gives it that flavor. I rarely use boxed cake mix and only use it to give it a “cake batter” flavor to something. So I usually have a ton of it leftover. I always feel bad tossing it out. There must be a better way out there hahaha But I figure, if you do bake boxed cake often, then this should be a staple in your pantry.

Cake Batter Éclairs

For the Choux Base:

Ingredients:

75 g. water
75 g. milk
75 g. butter
5 g. sugar
2.5 g. salt (about ½ tsp. best to use the tsp for such small measurements)
100 g. bread flour, sifted
150 g. eggs (about 3 large eggs), room temperature and lightly beaten
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir water, milk, butter, sugar and salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat once the mixture reaches a boil, and add all the flour at once.
  3. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a film on the bottom of the pan forms, about two minutes. The dough should be 170˚F (75 ˚C). Do not scrape the film into the dough.
  4. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the dough and mix on low for about a minute and thirty seconds or until the dough cools down to 140˚F (60˚C).
  5. Add half the eggs on low, until combined. Then add the remaining eggs slowly until combined and a smooth dough forms.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚F) and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. You can dab a bit of the dough onto the bottom corners of the parchment paper to keep it in place while you pipe out the éclairs.
  7. Prepare a pastry bag (or a gallon sized freezer zip lock bag) with a ½ in. star tip with as many small teeth as possible.
  8. Pipe the èclairs about 5 inches long, 1 inch wide and  2 inches apart.
  9. Dust with powdered sugar.
  10. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the pastry is dark golden brown.
  11. Remove the tray from the oven and carefully slit the bottom of each choux with a paring knife to let the steam escape.
  12. Cool completely.

For the Cake Batter Pastry Cream

Ingredients:

2 c. whole milk
½ c. sugar, divided
2 egg yolks
1 large egg
¼ c. cornstarch
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. vanilla cake mix
sprinkles (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a pot, heat whole milk and ¼ c. sugar and bring to a simmer.
  2. While the milk heats, mix egg yolks, egg, cornstarch and ¼ c. sugar in a medium bowl.
  3. When the milk is hot, use a ladle to slowly drizzle hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking to prevent curdling.
  4. Once all of the milk is introduced into the egg mixture, return all of it back into the pot.
    Bring the mixture in the pot to a boil while whisking. When it is thick, remove the pot off the heat.
  5. Add in the butter and vanilla. Once the butter is completely mixed in, add the cake mix. Move mixture to a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly against the pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming). Chill completely, about 2-3 hours, before using.
  6. If adding sprinkles, add to the pastry cream after fully chilled.

Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients:
1 ½ c. powdered sugar
2 ½ tbsp. milk
⅛ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. butter

Instructions:

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.

Assemble the Éclairs:

  1. Flip the cooled choux pastry upside down and fill with cake batter pastry cream using a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip.
  2. Dip the éclairs in the glaze using your fingers to wipe away the excess on the sides to ensure a neat presentation.
  3. Sprinkle with whatever decoration you want, or go simple and forgo the decoration.

Choux pastry recipe adapted from Iron Whisk.
Pastry cream and glaze recipe adapted from All Recipes.

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