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Sweet and Salty Raspberry Pretzel Crunch Cake – raspberry Jell-O cake layers with a whipped cream cheese frosting and a raspberry pretzel crunch filling.
Raspberry Pretzel Salad
I love traditions! Whether it’s a simple one like family night on Mondays or big ones like yearly trips to San Diego for 4th of July, they all mean the same thing to me – happy memories! One of my favorite kind of traditions is when it’s about food. I can think of so many meals and desserts that my mom would make every year for our birthdays or holidays. And every time I think of a particular food related to a birthday or holiday, I feel so much joy because it always makes me think of the memories from those special days.
One my favorite Christmas Eve dinner desserts growing up was the Lion House Raspberry Pretzel Salad. I’m sure many of you have had this dessert in some form or another, and maybe even with strawberries instead of raspberries. For those who haven’t, it’s a simple pretzel crust, topped with a whipped cream cheese filling and then raspberry Jell-O with fresh raspberries in it.
From Christmas Dessert to Summertime Cake
I was thinking about this dessert the other day and even though it is a Christmastime special at my house, the flavors are perfect for summertime, and just felt so ideal for a cake flavor.
To create the flavors of the raspberry pretzel salad in a cake, I decided to do a raspberry cake with a whipped cream cheese frosting and a raspberry pretzel crunch filling.
Also… can we just note that this is the first “salad” I’ve turned into a cake!!!
Raspberry Pretzel Crunch Cake
In order to keep the flavors pretty similar to the original dessert and not hide them too much with lots of buttercream, I decided to stack this cake “Milk Bar” style (i.e. as a naked cake). That means we’ll be baking the cake in a 9″x13″ pan, cutting out the cake layers with a cake ring, stacking it inside acetate strips, and chilling it before serving. I love using this method of stacking cakes when I’m not using a traditional buttercream to hold up and cover the layers.
For the cake layers, we’ll be using my strawberry cake from my Strawberry Lemonade Cake, but with raspberry Jell-O (our flavoring) instead of strawberry. I also split the original recipe in half for my layers (recipe below), but if you want really thick layers (double this size), you can double the recipe below and bake for an extra 10 to 15 minutes.
For some extra flavor and to ensure the cake retains moisture and doesn’t dry out since it doesn’t have frosting to lock in the moisture, we’ll use some of the extra Jell-O to create a soak for the layers.
Cream Cheese Frosting
The cream cheese filling is very similar to the original raspberry pretzel salad recipe I grew up with. We’ll be mixing cream cheese and sugar, and then folding in homemade whipped cream. One thing to note is that this filling doesn’t set up like buttercream, which is one of the reasons I decided to stack it in acetate strips. Even when we chill the cake, this frosting never hardens like buttercream. Just something to keep in mind.
Raspberry Pretzel Crunch Cake Filling
For the pretzel element of the cake, I adapted the Milk Bar pretzel crack recipe. I love that this recipe has a coating of white chocolate over it. The coating of white chocolate goes on after we bake the pretzel and butter mixture, which means the pretzels maintain their crunch even when covered with the cream cheese frosting!
- Preheat oven 20 to 30 minutes before baking.
- Use room temperature ingredients.
- Spray your pan. Line with parchment paper.
- Beat butter and sugar on high for a few minutes.
- Turn mixer to LOW once you add dry ingredients.
- Don’t over bake your cake layer. When you insert a toothpick in the center of the cake it should come out with a few moist crumbs on it.
- Use a 6-inch cake ring to cut your layers from the 9″x13″ pan.
- Stack the cake with acetate paper around the layers. Use THIS video for a how-to.
- Refrigerate the cake before serving.
I hope you enjoy this Raspberry Pretzel Crunch Cake as much as I do!
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Raspberry Pretzel Crunch Cake
Raspberry cake layers with a whipped cream cheese frosting and a pretzel crunch filling.
FOR THE CAKE
- 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 4 tbsp. raspberry Jell-O
- 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter
- 3 egg whites at room temperature
- 1 tsp. (4.2 g) vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (170 g) cake flour
- 3 tsp. (12 g) baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. (2.5 g) salt
- 1/2 cup (120 g) buttermilk at room temperature
FOR THE SOAK
- 4 tbsp raspberry Jell-O
- 1/4 cup (122 g) milk
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (346 g) heavy whipping cream
FOR THE PRETZEL CRUNCH (adapted from Milk Bar)
- 1/2 cup 1/2 (62.5 g) cup milk powder
- 1/4 cup (30 g) crushed pretzels you want these finely crushed, I used a food processor
- 2 tbsp (16.9 g) cornstarch
- 2 tbsp (25 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 g) salt
- 4 tbsp (56.5 g) unsalted butter melted
- 1/4 cup (31.25 g) milk powder
- 1/4 cup crushed freeze dried raspberries
- 3 oz white chocolate
FOR THE CAKE
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9"x13" baking pan with nonstick spray, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, and Jell-O. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add the egg whites, in a few additions, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on low, just until flour is combined.
- Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.
- Let cool completely before using.
FOR THE SOAK
- In a microwave safe bowl, heat the milk for about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the Jell-O powder until dissolved.
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- In a cold metal bowl, whisk the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Fold the heavy whipping cream into the cream cheese mixture.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
FOR THE PRETZEL CRUNCH
- Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine ½ cup milk powder, pretzel crumbs, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Toss with your hands to mix. Add the melted butter and toss, using a spatula or spoon, until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters.
- Spread the clusters on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be sandy at that point. Cool the crumbs completely.
- Crumble any clusters that are larger than ½ inch in diameter, and put the crumbs back in the medium bowl. Add the ¼ cup milk powder and toss together until it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
- Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your clusters are covered. Add the freeze dried raspberries and toss to distribute. Continue tossing them every five minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.
- Put a piece of parchment or a silpat on the counter. Invert the raspberry cake onto it and peel off the parchment from the bottom side of the cake. Use a 6-inch cake ring to stamp out 2 circles in each corner from the cake. With the remaining space, use the cake ring to stamp out two half circles.
- Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or silpat. Use 1 strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. (This is essential, as it is going to support the cake as you layer all the amazing elements.)
- Place one of the half circles in the cake ring and push up against the acetate. Place the other half circle in the cake ring and push up against the other side of the acetate. You'll have a gap between the two half circles. That's ok! Fill the gap with scraps from the cake. No one will see this layer and it will be covered with fillings, so don't stress about how it looks.
- Once the cake layer is filled, use a pastry brush to generously soak the cake layer.
- Spread ½ cup of the cream cheese filling over the cake layer using the back of a spoon.
- Sprinkle about ½ cup of the pretzel crunch and gently tap into place.
- Carefully spread another ½ cup of the cream cheese filling over the pretzels. This helps to secure the cake to the filling. (You'll notice I didn't do this – total mistake – and my cake layers didn't stick to my pretzel filling).
- Repeat these steps with the next two layers.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.