Learn how to make classic French Chocolate Eclairs with puff pastry, light and fluffy pastry cream filling, and fudgy chocolate ganache on top.
Chocolate eclairs are such a treat. With their crisp and tender puff pastry shell, chilled luxurious pastry cream filling, and the signature smear of gleaming chocolate ganache on top, no one can resist this classic French pastry.
But you don’t need to head to a patisserie when an eclair craving strikes! In fact, this pastry is fun and easy to make at home with simple ingredients. If this is your first time making eclairs, start with my post all about how to shape and fill homemade eclairs.
Update: I love making these pastries as much as I (and my family members) love eating them! I’ve updated this post with new tips and tricks so you can make perfect chocolate eclairs at home.
How to Make Chocolate Eclairs
This chocolate eclairs recipe is slightly adapted from my cookbook Simply Sweet Dream Puffs, which is full of similar light-as-air desserts with fun and fabulous fillings.
A chocolate eclair, is similar to a cream puff, and consists of three things
- A choux pastry shell
- Pastry cream filling
- Chocolate ganache coating
I recommend making the pastry cream first, as it needs to chill fully before you can assemble the eclairs. Then, make the choux pastry and finally the chocolate ganache for decoration.
Step 1: Making the Vanilla Pastry Cream
If you love homemade pastries, knowing how to make a creamy vanilla pastry cream is a great skill. You can use it to fill anything from cakes to homemade donuts.
Pastry cream is essentially a custard. My pastry cream recipe includes cornstarch and egg yolks instead of whole eggs, so there’s no need to temper the eggs. It’s important to mix the cornstarch with the sugar to avoid lumps.
Keep a close eye on the pot and whisk it constantly to prevent burning. The mixture is done cooking when it’s thick like a soft pudding.
There should not be any clumps of egg in the pastry cream. However, if you end up with a few clumps, you can strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh strainer before chilling and discard the clumps.
Step 2: Making Pastry Shells for Eclairs
The pastry part of your chocolate eclair is made with choux dough. This is an egg-based pastry dough that bakes up crisp and dry for the signature crunch of eclairs.
It’s important to have all of your ingredients assembled before starting the choux processes. It comes together quickly!
A few notes about making choux:
- Add all of the flour at the same time to ensure it cooks evenly. Only add the flour when the melted butter has reached a boil.
- Let the choux cool before adding the eggs to avoid scrambling the eggs.
- Beat the dough very well with a mixer. When you first add eggs, it will look a bit separated and curdled. Just keep mixing and it will come together into a smooth pastry dough.
- You can always add another egg if your dough is not thin enough to be piped.
For more details on how to pipe the choux dough into the proper shape for an eclair, including a video, see this post.
I also have free printable templates that I always use to pipe eclairs for the perfect size and shape every time.
After you’ve piped your dough onto your baking sheet, you are ready to put them in the oven.
Step 3: Chocolate Ganache
Finally, make a simple chocolate ganache to decorate your eclairs. The corn syrup helps get a nice shiny finish on your chocolate coating and helps keep it soft and fudgy even after chilling.
You can make the ganache while the pastries are cooling. The frosting will need about 30 minutes to firm up before it’s the right consistency to decorate your pastries.
If you like, you can sprinkle your assembled eclairs with chocolate sprinkles, nuts, or drizzle them with melted white chocolate for an elegant finish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Eclairs are traditionally filled with a vanilla pastry cream. Eclair pastry cream is a thick custard made from eggs, milk, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla.
The thick custard is combined with whipped cream to make it lighter and not too heavy.
In addition to traditional pastry cream, there are so many other options. For example, chocolate ganache, whipped cream, fruit preserves, or caramel.
Both cream puffs and eclairs are a type of choux pastry typically filled with pastry cream or sweetened whipped cream. Some differences include:
1. Shape: Eclairs are typically elongated, while cream puffs are round.
2. Filling: Typically a cream puff is filled with sweetened whipped cream. While the éclair is more likely to be filled with pastry cream or custard.
3. Topping: Cream puffs are often dusted with powdered sugar or drizzled with a simple glaze or chocolate. Eclairs are typically covered with a chocolate glaze or ganache.
One of the most defining characteristics of an excellent éclair is the contrast between the crispy outer shell and the creamy filling. Make sure to bake your elcair shell until it is golden brown and crispy on the outside – leaving the inside soft and slightly moist. Overbaking the eclair shell can result in a dry, hard, crunchy shell. Underbaking the pastry will create a soggy eclair.
Additionally, try to serve your eclairs the same day they are filled. For one, allowing a filled eclair to remain uneaten for too long is a sin, but it also allows time for the moisture from the filling to seep into the shell. When this happens you are left will a soft, soggy eclair.
More Puffs to Try
Once you’ve mastered choux pastry and pastry cream, you can make any of these other delicious and airy desserts:
- Cream Puff Swans are romantic and festive, but surprisingly easy to make.
- Raspberry Cheesecake Cream Puffs have a tangy cheesecake filling and a tart raspberry glaze.
- Candy Corn Cream Puffs are the perfect adult treat for Halloween.
- Churro Cream Puffs have cinnamon in the choux dough and the filling for a warming treat.
Chocolate Eclairs Recipe
Vanilla Pastry Cream
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 ¾ cups milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 reaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup water
- 8 tablespoons 1 stick unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs plus 1 extra, if needed
Fudgy Chocolate Glaze
- 8 oz. finely chopped milk chocolate
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Vanilla Pastry Cream
- In a heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
- Whisk egg yolks and milk in a glass bowl. Gradually whisk egg mixture into sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 6 to 7 minutes or until mixture just starts to boil. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 more minutes; remove from heat.
- Add butter and vanilla and whisk until butter is melted and incorporated.
- Transfer to a medium bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on warm filling to prevent a film from forming. Let stand 30 minutes; chill 4 to 24 hours.
- When vanilla pudding is chilled, whip cream to form soft peaks and gently fold into vanilla pudding. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove saucepan from heat. Add flour all at once. Stir until all the flour is moistened, about 1 minute. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, for another 1 to 2 minutes until dough forms a smooth ball.
- Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, add 3 eggs, 1 egg at a time. Stop mixing after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining 1 egg and mix until incorporated.
- Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe fat lengths of dough (about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog) onto the lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. You should have 8 to 10 lengths.
- Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps or points of dough that remain on the surface. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375° and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet.
- Fit a medium-size plain pastry tip over your index finger and use it to make a hole in the end of each eclair (or just use your fingertip). Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe the custard into the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside (don't overfill them.)
Fudgy Chocolate Icing
- Place 8 oz. finely chopped milk chocolate in a small glass bowl; set aside.
- Microwave ¼ cup heavy cream, 2 Tbsp. butter, and 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup in a small microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 45 seconds or just until it starts to boil. Stir until butter is melted.
- Pour hot cream mixture over chocolate; let stand 3 minutes.
- Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) 15 more seconds, if necessary.
- Chill 30 minutes or until the icing is thick and spreadable, stirring occasionally.
- Spoon custard mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip.
- Pierce 1 end of each éclair with a knife to create a small hole (or I prefer poking two holes in the top of the eclair on each end.) Insert the pastry tip; fill with custard, using only just enough to fill the inside (don't overfill them.)
- Spread Fudgy Chocolate Icing on tops of éclairs.
- Chill until ready to serve.
Shiny Chocolate Glaze (optional topping)
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
- ⅓ cup light corn syrup
- 3 teaspoons water
- Place the chocolate chips, margarine, and corn syrup in small saucepan over low heat and stir until the chocolate and margarine melt, 2 minutes. Add the water, a teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is of a pouring consistency.
- Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze (or spread on if that’s easier) and set on a sheet pan or wire rack. Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set the glaze. Serve chilled.