Strawberry Pretzel Cheesecake

There are some things moms just do best.

Adam's mom can fill a dishwasher like no other.  You think that dishwasher is full? Nope. She can rearrange a few things and fit 3 more plates, 2 glasses, and a bowl in.

My mom has a magic way of taking temperatures. When my sister and I were little and complained of a fever, she would kneel down and put her cheek up to our forehead. She said this was a better way to tell temperature than with her hand, because our hands are usually cooler than the rest of our bodies, but I think the closeness of her face to ours brought healing properties of its own.

Both my mom and Adam's mom can fold a fitted sheet so that it has perfect crisp edges.  Perfect.  Like you can't even tell it's a fitted sheet.

I probably won't be a mom anytime soon, but sometimes when I think about it, I worry.

I'm not an expert at filling the dishwasher. I don't have magic temperature taking abilities. And I definitely cannot fold a fitted sheet with crisp edges.

Can you be a good mom without those "mom" things?

The answer, I'm sure, is of course.  And moms do many amazing things that don't revolve around cooking or cleaning or nursing sick children.

But to all of us, I think, there are just some things that our moms do best. Things that no one else can ever replicate.

Adam's mom makes an amazing dessert called strawberry salad and Adam LOVES it.

She makes it every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes other special occasions. Adam gets giddy at the sight of it and has been known to eat large bowls of it for breakfast the next day.

The recipe has a crunchy pretzel bottom and middle creamy layer composed of cool whip and cream cheese. It's topped off with strawberry jello studded with fresh strawberries.

Maybe it sounds strange, (I think the salad name came from the 70's when things with jello were called salad) but it is SO GOOD. The salty-crunchy-creamy-sweet flavor combination is just something you have to try.

Adam's parents moved a little over a year ago, and he misses them a lot.  (I know this even though he doesn't always say it.)  I've tried to make his mom's strawberry salad twice, and both times were a near disaster.  The first time I poured the jello before it was partially set and splattered red liquid all over my white kitchen. The second time I added frozen strawberries to the hot water which cooled it down so much that the jello didn't coagulate. (That was at Thanksgiving and I had a meltdown at the table over the runny strawberry salad.) 

Since those two mishaps, I've been thinking about strawberry salad and about Adam's mom. And what I realized, of course, is that part of what makes strawberry salad so good is the person who makes it.

My kitchen foibles aside, my attempts at strawberry salad will never really measure up.

This doesn't mean that we can't enjoy creamy pretzel strawberry deliciousness. It just means that I will leave the real strawberry salad for her, and I'll make my own version. 

In my version, I nixed the jello--since that caused so many problems for me--and made a fresh strawberry compote topping instead.  I also replaced the creamy center with a thicker, classic cheesecake filling. 

The result? Fantastic. This strawberry pretzel cheesecake retains all the lovely qualities of the original strawberry salad, but also becomes something new, and I hope special, in its own right. 

Maybe I'll make it for our kids someday. 

Wishing you a happy Mother's Day, friends!

Strawberry Pretzel Cheesecake

Pretzel Crust
2 cups crushed pretzels
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted

2 (8oz) packages 1/3 of the fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
11/2 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry Topping:
2 pints strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Pretzel Crust:
Preheat oven to 350.

In a 9 inch pie pan, combine crushed pretzels, sugar, and butter. Use a fork to mix together and then press into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Pour over pretzel crust. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until center is set.

Let cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 4 hours.

Strawberry Topping: 
In a small saucepan, combine strawberries and sugar over medium high heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes until sugar is dissolved, then use a potato masher or fork to smash about half of the berries.

Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue cooking over medium high for 5-7 minutes until bubbling, slightly thickened, and covered in foam. Carefully use a spoon to remove foam.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water. Gradually add cornstarch water into the strawberry mixture, whisking continuously. The strawberry mixture should now be lovely and thick! Remove it from the heat. Let cool completely before pouring over cheesecake. I would recommend refrigerating it for at least an hour.


  • I think a timeline is helpful with multi-step recipes like this: 
    • 6 hours before serving--make the pie crust and bake it. 
    • While the pie crust is baking, and as it cools, make the cheesecake filling, then pour over pie crust, bake, and refrigerate for 4 hours. 
    • 2 hours before serving--make the fruit compote mixture and refrigerate. 
    • 5 minutes before serving--pour the fruit compote over the cheesecake.
    • Slice and enjoy!
    • Alternatively, you can make everything the night before so that it refrigerates over night!


  1. Trisha you will be such a wonderful mother someday and you have plenty of amazing things that ONLY you will be able to do!

    That cheesecake looks delicious and like something I may have to try a version of this summer!

  2. This looks so tasty! I instantly thought of strawberry pretzel salad when I saw the title, it's a family favorite of ours!

  3. This looks super delicious! I don't know how people fold a fitted sheet with crisp edges. My mother-in-law tried to teach me recently when I asked her for a tutorial, and I still basically end up rolling them into a ball of sorts.... :-)

  4. Such a sweet post! And I cannot fold a fitted sheet for the life of me. This reminds me a little of my grandma's strawberry pie (but hers uses a pecan cookie crust). Salty, sweet, creamy and fruity? Pass me a slice!

  5. Awww how sweet that you wanted to perfect your boy's favorite childhood pie! There really are some things that moms always make best. For me, it's mac and cheese.

  6. Trisha, I just LOVE how you write..this post made me miss my mom so so much. She's in Korea right now, and I haven't seen her for quite some time now. Just the image of your mom putting her cheeks to your little forehead warms my heart. This cheesecake sounds and looks absolutely gorgeous, and I know your children are going to love it! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog as it led me to your beautiful space! I look forward to following you, Trisha! p.s I'm a hot hot mess as well ;). My husband tells me that my hands were made to break things..why that little!