This is the Best Homemade Eclairs Recipe ever! The pastry and frosting are made completely from scratch and the filling is absolutely to-die-for! Making this recipe is a labor of love, but it results in a delicious, elegant dessert that is perfect for every special occasion! Make-ahead and freezer-friendly!
This Best Eclairs Recipe is my husband's favorite dessert of all time. His mom has been making these homemade Eclairs for over 45 years and when Ritch and I got married, she taught me how to make them too.
These Eclairs are good, like knock-your-socks-off delicious. But they are hard work! Making these for my husband is truly a labor of love. This eclairs recipe is really three recipes: one for the Choux pastry, one for the chocolate frosting and one for the eclair filling. We have the process down to a science, and I will be sharing it with you step-by-step.
I happily spend half a day making this eclairs recipe for Ritch because they bring him so much joy (just like these brownies are my love language)! We always work as a team, which makes the process faster and more fun! Plus, I love that this recipe is passed on from his mom. I always remind my kids that these are "Mema's Eclairs" so that we always think of her when we make them, and will for the rest of our lives!
How to make Homemade Eclairs Recipe
There are three separate components that make this eclairs recipe:
- Pastry Filling.
- Pastry Puffs (Choux Pastry)
- Chocolate Frosting.
Since each part requires the use of a standing mixer, I have the process of making of these mini eclairs down to a science!
Make the Eclair Filling
This best eclairs recipe begins with making the pastry filling! Since involves chilling and whipping, it's important to start with the filling first!
Mix milk & pudding
Begin by whisking together the milk and pudding mix, then letting it set up in the fridge for 5 minutes while you whip the whipping cream. Using a whisk ensures there are no clumps of pudding!
Whip the whipping cream
Next, add all the ingredients for the whipping cream into the bowl of your standing mixer and whip for about 60 seconds on high until stiff peaks form.
- A helpful tip: when you whip the whipping cream in your standing mixer, start by placing the mixing bowl in the refrigerator. A cold bowl aids in the whipping process immensely!
Mix the filling together!
After the pudding is set up and the cream is whipped, gently fold them together or stir on low speed in the mixer. Once they're thoroughly combined, transfer the filling to a bowl (because we need to use the bowl of the mixer again), cover it and place it in the fridge while you make the rest of the eclairs recipe - the puffs and frosting!
2. Make the Puff Pastry (AKA: Choux Pastry)
Once the eclair filling is chilling in the fridge, it's time to make the pastry shells (or puffs as we call them)! This Choux pastry is pretty straightforward, but can be a little finicky!
Make the panade
The first step in making Choux pastry is making a panade, which is just a starchy thickener. To do this, start by melting butter, salt and water together. Then add flour all at once and whip it with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball.
Cool the panade
Transfer it from the hot pan to the bowl of your standing mixer to cool. The panade needs to cool before the eggs are added so they don't cook when they hit the hot dough!
Add the eggs
Once the dough is cooled, beat the eggs in one at a time. Then prepare to bake the pastry shells.
If the batter is too runny, don't worry it can be fixed!
If the batter is not thick enough to hold its shape when piped, you will need to add more flour. I have had to adjust the amount of flour if my eggs are larger than normal and my batter comes out too thin! Add 1 TBS at a time as needed. The dough should be slightly runny, but still hold its shape when piped onto the pan.
Measure the Choux Pastry onto a greased baking sheet
You get to choose what shape you'd like to make the eclairs. Sometimes we pipe the filling into mini, oblong eclair shapes using a pastry bag and a wilton 1M decorating tip. I find it easiest to use a small (1 ½ TBS) cookie scoop to just dollop a small amount of dough onto the greased baking sheet to make round eclairs! It's really up to you!
Do NOT use parchment paper
Please do NOT use parchment paper to bake this eclair recipe. The eclair shells will stick to the parchment paper and will be a nightmare to remove!
Bake the Choux Pastry Shells
Bake the pastry shells until they are golden brown but not too dark (about 20-25 minutes). The yield in this recipe really depends on the size you make the shells. We get between 30 and 50. When we make larger (about 2 TBS per shell) round eclairs we get about 30, when we make smaller mini eclairs (about 1 TBS per pastry puff) we get about 50-60!
After they are finished baking, remove them to a wire rack to cool. The shells need to be completely cool before filling/frosting. However they are fairly thin and cool pretty quickly.
What happens if my pastry shells fall flat?
As long as they puffed up in the oven this isn't as big of a problem as it might seem. Obviously it's not ideal, but the shells will puff up again as they are filled with the eclair filling.
Making the choux pastry is the most "advanced" part of this recipe, and it does take practice. So if at first you don't succeed, try again!
Why did my pastry shells fall flat?
When baked, the liquid in the choux pastry evaporates and creates steam, expanding the egg protein, causing the rise in the puffs. The eclair shells needs to be fully baked to ensure there is no moisture left on the inside. Even a small amount of moisture will cause the shells to deflate and go flat when they are removed from the oven.
You want the shells to be a deep, golden brown all the way around the shell. I honestly could've baked the shells pictured below for longer and they would've held their shape better.
Make the Chocolate Frosting
While your shells are baking, make the frosting. It's a basic chocolate buttercream frosting that is a little on the dark side (insert Star Wars jokes here). Start by beating softened butter, melted chocolate and sea salt together until smooth.
Next, add powdered sugar and milk and beat until the frosting is light and spreadable.
Add more milk if necessary to make the eclair frosting spreadable, but I have found that 3 TBS is exactly the right amount every single time! The more you whip the frosting, the lighter in color it will become!
How to make eclairs (Assembly)
Fill the eclairs
To assemble the Eclairs, begin by piping the filling into the shells using a small round tip. Using a tip is very helpful to ensure the homemade eclairs will be fully filled without making a mess.
Press the decorators bag full of filling into one side of the cooled pastry shell, then gently push the filling out until you see it start to ooze out a little bit.
This is when we tag-team it! Ritch fills the shells, then passes them to me to frost! Seriously having a partner to make these is a necessity! Also...if your helper is good at washing dishes that is a total bonus! 😉
Frost the Eclairs.
Use your favorite decorators tip to frost the filled eclairs! For these photos I used the Wilton 2B tip (basket weave tip). I also like using the Wilton 1M decorators tip! You can frost them however you'd like!
I don't recommend spreading the frosting onto the eclairs with a knife because the filled pastry shells are delicate! If you apply too much pressure you run the risk of crushing the eclair!
Chill & Store or serve.
Place the finished eclairs in a single layer on a baking tray or in a container and store them in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (until the frosting hardens). Then you can stack them or freeze them in an airtight container! Serve cold after chilling!
Tools needed to make the Best Eclairs Recipe!
Having the right tools aids in the process of making these eclairs immensely! These are the tools I use to make them, as well as many other baked goods! I especially use these things to decorate cakes using our favorite homemade frosting recipe (another 45-year-old Mema recipe)!
- Standing Mixer. A standing mixer is truly the powerhouse of this recipe. Sure you could make these homemade eclairs without it, but it will be WAY harder. I bought this Kitchen Aid mixer a few years ago and love it.
- Decorator's bag. I use both reusable and disposable decorators bags. I have a hard time keeping the reusable ones clean, so I prefer disposable ones!
- Decorator's tips. These are the tips we use in making this best eclair recipe:
- Wilton 2B tip. This is a basket weave tip. It's SO EASY to frost this eclair recipe with it! Just move the piping bag in a zig zag motion!
- Wilton 1M decorators tip. I use this tip for EVERYTHING. Including making my favorite rose cake. Seriously, this is an absolute must-have if you enjoy baking and cake-making. Plus it's only $4!
- Wilton Small Round Tip. This is used for filling the eclairs easily!
- Baking sheets
- Batter bowl with lid. I use this for storing the filling while making the puffs and frosting!
Eclairs Recipe: Ingredients
There are three components to this Eclairs Recipe, and I'll show you the ingredients I use for each of them!
This only has 4 ingredients, water, butter, eggs and salt! I do not recommend making any substitutions. The only change that can be made in using unsalted butter instead of salted butter! (Note: you only need ¾ cup butter for the recipe, although 1 cup is pictured below)!
The quality of ingredients used in this filling recipe matters. I don't recommend making any substitutions in the filling recipe either! Especially do NOT substitute the french vanilla pudding for regular vanilla or any other brand. (If you love french vanilla pudding, try this dirt cake - it's the best)!
True story: No joke, once I made these eclairs with a generic brand of french vanilla pudding and Ritch noticed. He took one bite and said, “What did you do to these? They are different!” I never ever change this recipe, because his mom made it and it's perfect. So I told him I made them the same way I always do!
Then, (oh yes…then) Ritch found the generic pudding packages in the garbage and said, “You didn’t use Jell-O brand pudding! That’s it! The filling is different!” LOL! I about died. That man can’t tell the difference between ground turkey and ground pork, but he could detect that I tried to save 90 cents by buying a different brand of pudding. Never again did I make that mistake.
Once again, the quality of chocolate used in the frosting matters!
- Chocolate: I love Ghirardelli baking chocolate. This frosting is a little dark but still sweet! If you like a sweeter chocolate frosting, use semi-sweet or milk chocolate!
- Milk: I use whole milk in this chocolate frosting, but you can use 2%, half and half or cream if you'd like!
- Butter. Unsalted butter can be used in place of salted butter for equally delicious results!
FAQs about Eclairs
One last section before we wrap this up...here are my answers to some frequently asked questions about this eclair recipe!
How do you store eclairs?
Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer!
Can you freeze Eclairs?
YES! Store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month (if they last that long)!
How long do filled eclairs last?
These eclairs will last for 5 days in the refrigerator or 1 month in the freezer. They keep longer than that, but for their optimal taste and texture that is the timeframe I recommend!
More special occasion dessert recipes:
- These chocolate chip cookies are what we're known for! SO GOOD!
- This flourless chocolate cake is my favorite.
- We make this homemade vanilla frosting to decorate all the birthday cake in our family!
- My daughter is requesting this dirt cake for her birthday dessert!
IF YOU MAKE SOMETHING FROM JOYFOODSUNSHINE I WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOUR CREATIONS! DON’T FORGET TO RATE THIS RECIPE AND LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW! ALSO, FOLLOW ALONG WITH ME ON INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST, FACEBOOK, YOUTUBE AND TWITTER FOR MORE RECIPE INSPIRATION AND A GLIMPSE INTO OUR EVERYDAY LIFE!
Best Eclairs Recipe
Filling: (You will have extra)
- Mix together the French vanilla pudding and milk. Set aside in the refrigerator until it becomes thick (about 5 minutes).
- Add the whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer and whip on high speed until firm peaks form and hold their shape.
- Fold the pudding and whipped cream mixture together.
- Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease three jelly roll pans and set aside.
- Measure your water, salt and butter into a 4-quart saucepan. Heat water salt and butter to boiling. Continue to boil the mixture until the butter is melted.
- Add the flour to the saucepan all at once and whip with wooden spoon. Mixture will form a ball in middle of the pan.
- Cool for about 5 minutes stirring to cool faster.
- Add eggs one at a time whipping with wooden spoon well after each. [Or transfer your mixture to a standing mixture and add eggs individually, beating well after each].
- Check your batter, if it is not thick enough to hold a shape when piped, gradually add more flour until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Put mixture into pastry bag and pipe out eclair shapes about 1 ½ to 2 inches long and 2 inches apart on your prepared baking sheets.
- Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes or until lightly brown. Let cool completely before assembling the eclairs.
- Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave (60 seconds, then 30 second intervals until smooth), set aside.
- Place softened butter in the bowl of your standing mixer.
- Add chocolate vanilla and beat until combined.
- Add salt and powdered sugar and beat until well combined.
- Add milk and beat until the mixture reaches spreading consistency, wiping down the sides as you go. You may need to add more milk.
- Set aside (but keep at room temperature).
- Put filling in a large piping bag fitted with a small, round tip. Gently pipe the filling into one end of the pastry puff. Repeating for each puff until they are all filled.
- Fill a large piping bag with your chocolate frosting and frost the eclairs in any way you’d like!
- Refrigerate until serving.
- I do not recommend any ingredient substitutions. The only changes that can be made are: using unsalted butter in both the puffs and frosting, or a different kind of chocolate in the frosting (e.g. semisweet or milk) for a sweeter taste.
- Store these eclairs in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month in an airtight container.
- Simply remove from the freezer and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving!
Ritch's feelings about these this best eclairs recipe:
"These Eclairs are BY FAR the best dessert that I have ever had! Nothing else comes close. In fact, It's not even fair to compare other desserts to this one. I'm actually tearing up a little bit as I write this....they are...so...(sniffle) amazing. I obviously have the best wife in the world--for lots of reasons--not least of which is because she makes these Eclairs for me. Just like anything else in life that is good...this recipe is a lot of work. But worth every second." -Ritch
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