eclair (n.)

Famously defined by The Chambers Dictionary as "a cake, long in shape but short in duration." Meaning "a small, oblong pastry with sweet filling and glazed or iced," 1861, from French éclair, literally "lightning," from Old French esclair "light, daylight, flash of light," verbal noun from esclairare "to light up, illuminate, make shine" (12c.), formerly esclairer, ultimately from Latin exclarare "light up, illumine," from ex "out" (see ex-) + clarus "clear" (see clear (adj.)).

Nowadays the éclair au chocolat is the version of the dessert that is typically designated by the word eclair, but Pierre Blot's 1867 cookbook also lists coffee, tea, vanilla, flavor extract, strawberry, and currant varieties, as well as noting that any fruit jelly can be used. Modern versions are usually filled by injection, but early forms were often split and the filling spread between to make a sandwich-style cake. The earliest version of the éclair in French cookbooks (where it is attested by 1856) appears to be the coffee-flavored variety, made with choux pastry.

updated on January 27, 2023