The base of the cake starts with a basic cream puff dough. Instead of making individual cream puffs the dough is spread in a pan, then topped with layers of the pudding filling and whipped cream. It's much easier than making individual cream puffs! Cream puff dough is not difficult to make. I've observed, however, that the mere mention of cream puffs makes a novice baker shake their head and say that's too complicated. In reality, it's one of the easiest things to make!
To start it's a basic process of combining butter & water and letting come to a boil; stir in flour and stir until the mixture pulls away from the pan.
At this point eggs are added, one at a time, until you get a shiny, sticky dough. This process can be done with a spoon but I find it so much easier to plop the mixture into my mixing bowl and let the mixer do the work!
If regular cream puffs were being made this is the point where the puffs would be piped or spooned onto a baking sheet. In this version the dough is spread in a baking pan, spreading part way up the sides, to make a receptacle for the filling.
Steam forms as the puff bakes, and the strong gluten structure formed by beating the dough stretches to hold the steam. The puff will be golden brown, with a hollow center crisscrossed with soft filaments of dough. If the middle is too puffy I will often take a small wooden skewer and make a few holes to let some of the steam out. This flattens out the puff some, making it easier to spread with the filling.
Now fill with the pudding and whipped cream layers and you will have a dessert that is as good as any cream puff and much less labor-intensive!
Cream Puff Cake
1 cup water
½ cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1(8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
4 cups milk
3 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed (I used freshly whipped cream, sweetened to taste)
¼ cup chocolate syrup
I'm joining in at Inspire Me Tuesday.