Food, in general, is pretty amazing stuff when you think about it. Not only does it sustain us, comfort us and keep us going day after day, but certain foods can trigger memories and take us back to places we haven’t seen or visited in years in just a single bite.
When I was little, I lived in Indianapolis and my Grandmothers both lived in a suburb of Detroit. We’d visit them as often as possible and I remember sitting in Grandma’s kitchen, waiting patiently for her to whip up a Sanders hot fudge cream puff for me for dessert. Sometimes, we’d take trips to the actual Sanders store at the mall, but oftentimes, Grandma would have everything ready to put them together at home for us. It was a simple dessert, just a cream puff shell filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with amazing, creamy, Sanders Hot Fudge (check out the link here for some Sanders history AND their hot fudge recipe!), but it was delicious and, to this day, it is one of my all-time favorite desserts.
So, imagine my inner child jumping for joy when I came across this! The original recipe comes from a beautiful food blog called Cast Sugar. I’ve made plenty of appetizer sized and dessert sized cream puffs before, but the idea of making a GIANT cream puff to feed a crowd really intrigued me. I figured the perfect time to test out the recipe was when I had my family visiting over the holidays. Cream puffs hold as much sentimental value for them as they do for me, so I thought they’d be the perfect people to test it out.
I started out by whipping up a basic cream puff recipe. When I’ve made cream puffs before, people have always seem impressed that I was able to pull it off. I think they come off as something elegant, but they are surprisingly simple to make and require just a few basic ingredients: butter, flour, water and eggs. That’s it.
The butter and water came to a boil on the stove and I carefully stirred the flour in. After a minute or so, the mixture pulled away from the side of the pan.
Once it pulled away and kind of formed a ball in the pan, it was time to take the pan off the stove.
At this point, I beat in the eggs, one at a time, until a smooth dough was formed.
Then, I just spread the dough in a 9×13 pan and popped it in the oven.
After about 30 minutes in the oven, I had a beautiful GIANT crowd pleasing cream puff!
I let the puff cool completely and then moved on to the filling.
I whipped some cream cheese up until it was smooth and then beat in some milk. To that mixture I added three boxes of instant pudding. I chose French Vanilla, but you could really use whatever suits your fancy.
Once that was thick and creamy, I spread it on the cooled shell. Then, I topped it with some Cool Whip.
It was beautiful! And so easy!! At this point, despite wanting to dive right in, I covered it and put it in the fridge until after dinner.
When I served the puff, I drizzled each slice with generous amounts of chocolate syrup. It was delicious, and my family went on and on about how it brought back memories of Sanders and simpler times. We enjoyed it for days! It kept really well in the refrigerator and I would say you could make this up to two days ahead of time and not be disappointed in the result when you serve it.
For my family, it provided a little trip down Memory Lane, which is always kind of nice and comforting. Next time I make it, I may have to whip up a batch of that Sanders Hot Fudge to drizzle on top. Couldn’t hurt, right?
CREAM PUFF CAKE
Adapted from Cast Sugar
- 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 4 large eggs
- 4 cups milk
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
- 3 (3.5 oz) boxes of instant vanilla pudding
- 1 container Cool Whip
- chocolate syrup or hot fudge
- Preheat oven to 400*.
- In a large saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the flour and reduce the heat to low. Cook and stir, constantly, until mixture is smooth and the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. At this point, remove the dough from the stove and pour it into a large mixing bowl.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the dough is nice a smooth.
- Spread the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Bake at 400* for 30-35 minutes, or until nicely browned. When you tap on the top of the puff, it should be hard and sound hollow. Cool completely before filling.
- In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually, beat in the milk. Add the pudding and mix until thickened. Spread over the cooled puff.
- Spread a layer of Cool Whip over the top of the pudding. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve it.
- When serving, drizzle with chocolate syrup or hot fudge. Can be made up to two days ahead.