Chocolate Pretzel Cake

November 18, 2018

Chocolate Pretzel Cake – Dark chocolate cake layers baked on a pretzel crust with chocolate chip cheesecake filling and chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Pretzel Cake #cakebycourtney #chocolatecake #pretzelcake #cheesecake #chocolatebuttercream

Did You Know?

Many of you may not know that in addition to making cakes and raising my two children, I also freelance in television research. What does that mean exactly? I basically travel around the country moderating focus groups about new or existing television shows. I’ve been doing it for over 13 years now, and aside from not getting much sleep while on the road, I still really enjoy it!

Chocolate Lovers Cake

Anyway, while traveling for a while back, I was thinking of new cake ideas, with the specific intention of coming up with something new to celebrate my wedding anniversary. Ryan and I both love my chocolate cake, so having that as the base of the cake was a no-brainer. I also wanted to do something completely new. I mean, we could eat my Chocolate Salted Caramel CakeChocolate Peanut Butter Cake, and the Tonight Show Cake over and over again, but I was in the mood for something new.

Chocolate Pretzel Cake #cakebycourtney #chocolatecake #pretzelcake #cheesecake #chocolatebuttercream

As I sat on the plane early one morning thinking about what I could do for our anniversary cake, the idea for this one just hit me like a bolt of lightning.

Chocolate Pretzel Cake

I’ve done a chocolate cake baked on a graham cracker crust and loved the crunchy texture it adds to the cake. So, to change things up a bit, I swapped out the graham crackers for pretzels and then added an adapted version of the Milk Bar Liquid Cheesecake for my chocolate chip cheesecake filling. I love this filling because it’s not as dense and rich as regular cheesecake. This cheesecake filling is creamy and smooth, and the tangy flavor pairs well with the sweet and salty combination already going on with the pretzels and chocolate. To top it all off, I used a light, silky chocolate buttercream, which you’ll find nearly impossible to not eat straight off a spoon.

Chocolate Pretzel Cake #cakebycourtney #chocolatecake #pretzelcake #cheesecake #chocolatebuttercream

Look at those layers! Make sure to take a bite with everything in it so you get the full experience of this cake.

Chocolate Pretzel Cake #cakebycourtney #chocolatecake #pretzelcake #cheesecake #chocolatebuttercream

And one quick note – make the cheesecake filling the day before and keep it refrigerated in an air-tight container so it’s ready to spread but sturdy enough to hold up the cake layers.

Piping Tutorial

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Chocolate Pretzel Cake

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Chocolate Pretzel Cake.
Dark chocolate cake layers baked on a pretzel crust with chocolate chip cheesecake filling and chocolate frosting.
Servings 1 3-layer, 8-inch cake


For the Crust

  • 3 cups (360 g) finely blended pretzels (this is best done in a food processor or blender)
  • 3/4 cup (169.5 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons (41.25 g) brown sugar

For the Cake

  • 2 cups (240 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups (88.5 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) kosher salt
  • 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (109 g) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (236.6 g) hot water or coffee

For the Filling, adapted from Milk Bar

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.4 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) mini chocolate chips

For the Buttercream

  • 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter, slightly cold
  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 oz. good quality chocolate I use semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup (115.5 g) heavy whipping cream
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping you’ll want to make an extra ½ batch.


For the Crust

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray and then line with parchment. Spray again. Set aside.
  • In a medium sized bowl combine the pretzel crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar. Stir until all the pretzel crumbs are damped by the melted butter.
  • Divide evenly between the pans and press down firmly with your hand or the back of a spoon.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool while you make the chocolate cake batter.

For the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
  • In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, water and vanilla.
  • With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans (about 15 ounces in each 8-inch pan or 12 oz in each 6-inch pan), over the cooked pretzel crusts and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.
  • Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer until ready to use. Do not chill in your refrigerator. The crust will get soggy.

For the Fillng

  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 6×6-inch baking pan with plastic wrap (I know, it sounds crazy but it won’t melt). Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment mix the cream cheese on low speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and add the sugar and mix for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar has been completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and salt until combined. In a slow and steady stream, whisk in the milk and then the egg until the mixture is homogenous.
  • With the stand mixer on medium-low speed, stream in the egg mixture. Mix for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another 30 seconds.
  • Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Gently shake the pan. The cheesecake should be firm and more set toward the rim of the baking pan but still a little loose in the dead center. If the cheesecake is still jiggly all over, give it another 5 minutes and 5 more if it needs it. If it begins to brown, take it out of the oven immediately.
  • Let cool to room temperature and transfer to a medium sized bowl. Fold in the chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For the Buttercream

  • In a microwave safe bowl, heat the cream and then pour it over the chocolate to melt. Stir until the mixture is smooth and silky. If needed heat the mixture for another 20 to 30 seconds and stir until the chips are melted. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for one minute. 
  • Turn the mixer to medium-low and gradually add the melted chocolate ganache. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat again for about one minute.
  • Gradually add the powdered sugar.
  • Add the vanilla and salt and beat for about 5 minutes.
  • Using a wooden spoon, mix the frosting by hand, trying to push out any air bubbles.


  • Level the chocolate cakes as needed.
  • Spread a little frosting on a cake board and place the first cake layer, pretzel side down, on the cake board. 
  • Pipe a rim of frosting around the cake layer and fill with half of the chocolate chip cheesecake filling.
  • Place the next cake layer, pretzel side down, on top of the filling and repeat step 2.
  • Place the final cake layer, pretzel side down, on top of the second layer of filling and apply a thin crumb coat and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  • Continue frosting and decorating with the remaining chocolate buttercream. Best served right away or day of. If you’re not serving day of, place the cake in an air-tight container and freeze it over night. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
Author: cakebycourtney
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Cake
Keyword: chocolate, Layered Cake, Pretzel

Join the Conversation

  1. This looks and sounds amazing, thank you for sharing . How much would you charge for a cake like that?

    1. Hi Teresa! I’m actually not taking orders anymore. I’m so sorry!

  2. Hello, recipe looks beautiful, actually looking into making it. The plastic wrap is ok to use for the cheesecake portion in the oven? Thanks

    1. yes, the heat is so low it won’t melt. But you can spray your pan too if you’d rather not use the plastic wrap. I just noticed the filling still sticks to the sides without the plastic.

  3. Thailyn Lopez says:

    The pretzels floated into the cake batter even after baking. I used three cups of pretzel crumbs. Did you mean to say theee cups of pretzels, crumbled? Please advise

    1. Did you bake the pretzel crust by itself first? That should bake first on it’s own to create a crust and then you pour the batter on top of it and bake again.

  4. Just curious if pretzels become soggy by the next day.

    1. They do if you refrigerate the cake or leave it out. They stay crunch if you freeze the cake.

      1. This info should probably be in the recipe somewhere. Made this the other day and stuck it right in the fridge not knowing it would ruin the crust.

  5. CIndy Atkin says:

    Why do you subtract 2 Tablespoons sugar from some of your chocolate cake recipes and 4 Tablespoons other times? I want to understand why so I can make the right one. Thank you!

    1. The newer recipes I”m taking more sugar out. It helps the cake to rise better.

  6. What Wilton tip do you use for the buttercream vertical ruffle? Thanks!

    1. The wilton 1m tip

  7. are the three cups of pretzels before blending or after?

  8. Meghan Ramirez says:

    What if you only have an 8×8 small baking pan for cheesecake misxture?

    1. Totally fine!

  9. Delicious, thanks for an amazing recipe! My friend requested a cake inspired by chocolate-covered pretzels, and this was absolutely perfect. For others who make 6″ round cakes, I might recommend making .75 of the whole recipe (including crust, buttercream, etc.) and using 3 cake rounds. Three cake rounds were as much as I could carry comfortably and made for quite a tall cake. I also correspondingly needed to bake much, much longer than the recommended time (prob around 35 min total, or longer).

    The edges of the crust were crumbly for me, so I’d probably add another teaspoon or so of butter in the future. I also added a dash of espresso powder to the hot water in the cake, which brought forth a very chocolatey flavor.

    1. Connie and Jamie, I had the same result. I weighed the pretzels before and after crumbling, but there should def be more butter.

      I might try ganache over the crust and after it sets try to turn over to stack. If that doesn’t work, I will scrape off the crust and try adding crumbled thin pretzels over a ganache layer to still get the chocolate/pretzel flavor she asked for. I’m so disappointed bc that’s a lot of waste, but also I have to do it all over again bc it’s a friend’s bday cake🤷🏻‍♀️

  10. This cake didn’t work for me unfortunately. I followed the recipe exactly and the pretzel crust was a crumbled mess when I turned the cakes out of the pan. No way they would have stacked! I will still make the cheesecake filling and buttercream, just no pretzel crust!

  11. This cake was delicious. I made it for my MIL’s birthday and she loved it. Icing was fantastic. The inly issue I had was the pretzel crust fell about apart pretty easily. Any suggestions on how I can improve that so it is not as crumbly?

    1. You can add a little extra butter and make sure its packed in the pan well!

  12. This recipe sounds amazing! If I want to freeze the crust/cake layers overnight and assemble the next day, should I assemble and frost straight away or let it defrost first. I have never frozen cake before and worried it will just end up a mushy mess! Thanks x

    1. Take the frozen layers out and let thaw for about 20 minutes. Then start assembling and frosting!

      1. Alison Hayward says:


  13. Like others, I found that the pretzel crust almost completely fell off the cake layers when I flipped them out of the pan. I instead just captured the crumbs and sprinkled them between the layers and along the outside of the cake as well. Otherwise, everything else went swimmingly and the cake was amazing! I baked the cheesecake filling in an 8×8 lined with foil and didn’t have issues.

  14. Alessandra McIntosh says:

    What could I do instead of the cheesecake layers? We’re not fans of cream cheese in general (I know…it’s sacrilegious).

    1. Cookie dough?

  15. Hi… what kind of cocoa powder do you use? Dutch processed or natural? Thank you 🙂

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