About UslAdvertisinglMagazinelNewsletterlContact Usl Instagram

Eclair Cake: Change Isn't So Bad

By Frank E. Vaerewyck, The Firehouse Foodie

“What's wrong with the way we've always done it, Lou?”

“Well the big guy who makes the rules, you know, the guy with ALL the bugles, wants it done this way. Come on, guys, let's give it a try and see how it works. Who knows, you might actually like doing it this way.”

This conversation has plagued line officers since the beginning of the modern fire department. There have been some things that worked great and some that didn't work out so well. Change is probably the one thing that is fought against so hard in the fire department. We get used to doing it one way, a way that works, and we get good at it. No, we get GREAT at it, and just about the time we perfect it, someone comes along and changes it. What tends to be even harder is leaving one department and going to another.

Moving from one department to another is a huge change that disrupts the harmonic balance that is sanity. Not so long ago, I moved from nice, cozy Manassas back to the Tidewater area of Virginia, and it became a hardship to travel the three hours back to Manassas for a 24-hour shift, so I began looking in the area and found the Smithfield Fire Department, Station 50, in Isle of Wight County. Smithfield, for those of you that may not know, is the home of Smithfield Foods, and although you might not be familiar with the Smithfield name, you may know one or more of its well-loved brands, including Smithfield, Eckrich, Farmland, Armour, Cook's, Gwaltney, John Morrell, Kretschmar, Curly's, Carando, Margherita, and Healthy Ones. The packing plants employ a lot of people in the area, and this small town feels like something right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

After visiting a few times and getting introduced to a couple of the guys, I applied and was picked up on a probationary basis, which is typical for most departments. Once again, I am a probie. In Manassas, I was riding the front right seat, running a crew; here in Smithfield, I'm the new guy. They don't know me, and I don't know them. I have to learn their ways, learn their rules, and change the way I have done things in Manassas for so long to the Smithfield way. Change isn't bad; it just takes some getting used to. They have found out that I can cook, and that has been well received. When they get a taste of this old family recipe for Eclair Cake, those who don't like change might not mind it so much. Thanks, Aunt Linda (Sissy), and “That's Bringing the Firehouse Home!”





1 cup flour                                

1 cup water                                

1 cup margarine                        

4 eggs (beaten)



2½ cups milk

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

2 small packages vanilla instant pudding



8 oz whipped topping

chocolate syrup



  1. Lightly grease 9 x 13 pan.
  2. Heat water and margarine until it boils, remove from heat, stir in flour, and add eggs, stirring thoroughly.
  3. Spread thinly in pan.
  4. Bake dough 15 minutes at 400ºF. Take fork and prick holes in crust and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let crust cool before adding the filling. (Dough in crust will puff and then it will go down, Aunt Linda says, so don't get concerned when this happens.)


  1. Blend all ingredients--milk, cream cheese, and vanilla pudding--stirring thoroughly.
  2. Once crust has cooled, spread mixture over crust, then cover with whipped topping.
  3. Drizzle chocolate syrup lightly on top and refrigerate. Enjoy!


Frank Vaerewyck has had a passion for the fire service that has spanned 20 years. He has been a volunteer and career firefighter and is currently a firefighter/EMT with the Manassas (VA) Volunteer Fire Company. He has passed on his passion for the fire service through instruction and mentorship. That same passion he has for the fire service is shared with his love of food. In 2006, Vaerewyck won an Iron Chef-style competition sponsored by a radio station in Richmond, Virginia. That is where he also furthered his education by attending a Culinary Arts Program. As the Firehouse Foodie, he has been compiling recipes to be included in a cookbook that will give others the opportunity to see their hometown heroes not just as firefighters, but as the firehouse chefs they truly are.



Did you like this article?  Join the Fire Engineering Training Network to gain unlimited access to the most comprehensive database of firefighter training in the world.

Membership Include:

  • Monthly Print & Digital Subscription to Fire Engineering Magazine
  • Fire Engineering Magazine Historical Archives (online only)
  • Exclusive Online Access to FireEngineering.com News & Articles (not available to the public)
  • Save up to $100 off registration to FDIC International

Buyers Guide Featured Companies

More Buyer's Guide >

Fire Dynamics

Survival Zone

Extrication Zone

Tech Zone