Elevated Strawberry Gelatin Pretzel Cake

We’ve all had it: Strawberry Jell-O Pretzel Salad. It’s sure to show up at every summer picnic pot luck. And, whether you want to admit it or not, you love it. We can’t quite figure out how or why salad became part of its original title, but apparently, it is now referred to as Strawberry Jell-O Pretzel Bars, and that seems to be more appropriate.

However, don’t settle in on that title too quickly. We’re taking this beloved traditional dessert to an elevated status and giving it a new name: Elevated Strawberry Gelatin Pretzel Cake (if you can think of a shorter title, please chime in).

Disclaimer: This recipe is not meant to swap out the full-fat ingredients. Nothing low cal here. You can expect a very rich and delicious experience with every bite. Think cheesecake, without the baking, and use the freshest strawberries the summer season has to offer. If you want to get a little creative, try using a different berry in place of the strawberries for a whole new dessert.

Elevated Strawberry Gelatin Pretzel Cake Recipe


For the crust:

2 ½ cups thin salted pretzel sticks
¼ cup granulated sugar
8 TBSP ( 1 stick) unsalted butter

For the cream filling:

8 oz cream cheese (slightly softened)
8 oz mascarpone cheese
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (homemade if you have it)

For the gelatin top:

Make your own strawberry “juice” -make ahead and chill (you can also use store bought)
2 cups fresh strawberries chopped + 1lb sliced
1 cup coconut water
1 ½ cups water
½ cup granulated sugar
Juice of ½ of a large lemon
2 packets of KNOX gelatin


For the crust:

  1. Place the pretzels in a zip lock bag and crush them into small pieces using a rolling pin

  2. Melt the stick of butter

  3. Mix the pretzels, melted butter, and sugar in large mixing bowl until well combined

  4. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9”springform pan, leaving the edges slightly higher than the center

  5. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 10 minutes

  6. Let cool to room temperature before adding the filling.

For the Strawberry “juice”:

  1. Place all of the ingredients for the gelatin top, minus the gelatin,in a heavy bottom saucepan, and bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly

  2. Boil for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes

  3. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain out the strawberries and any seeds, you should yield 2 cups of juice

  4. Chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the cake

For the filling:

  1. Place all of the ingredients for the filling into the bowl of your electric mixer

  2. Using the whisk attachment, whisk on high speed for 3-4 minutes until well incorporated

  3. Spread the mixture over your cooled crust, again making sure the sides are slightly higher than the center

  4. Chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minute, minimum, while preparing the gelatin

For the gelatin top:

  1. Take 1 ½ cups of your strawberry juice and bring it to a boil

  2. While doing that, take the remaining ½ cup of cold juice and pour it into a large bowl

  3. Sprinkle two packets of KNOX gelatin over the cold juice to let it soften for 1 minute

  4. Pour the hot juice over the gelatin mixture and stir for 5 minutes or until completely dissolved

  5. Let this mixture sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes to rest and cool

  6. Begin arranging the sliced strawberries to cover all of the cream center

  7. Once you have a solid layer of berries layed, slowly pour the gelatin mixture over the berries

  8. Now you can add the remaining sliced berries being careful to evenly distribute

  9. Cover and chill for 3-4 hours or overnight

  10. Carefully remove the sides of your springform pan.

  11. Garnish the top with some fancy cut strawberries and mint leaves before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe, Food Styling, and Story by Star Laliberte / Prop Styling by Keith Recker / Photography by Dave Bryce

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