I don’t know about you, but I think that Christmas should be a time to feel guiltless if you want to act gluttonous and eat whatever you want. Then again, some people with more willpower than me only allow themselves the holiday season to indulge and I certainly can’t imagine that. You shouldn’t either. It’s too scary.

It stands to reason that a staggering amount of sugar is a large percentage of the holiday eat-fest allowance. This year, there were two desserts on the Hembrey Christmas dinner table: our traditional pretzel salad and a new addition, coconut carrot cake.

If you’ve never had pretzel salad before there’s a chance that you’ll turn your nose up at this recipe. You’d be missing out big time. It is definitely one of those “sum is greater than its parts” recipes so I encourage you to keep an open mind and try this easy, yet super tasty, recipe.

The recipe that my second mom has used for the last 20 or so years comes from an old cookbook, which is a collection of recipes that were contributed by people somehow connected to the Derby. If you need to ask what Derby I’m referring to, you clearly do not know my husband.


Mom’s Pretzel Salad

20 oz frozen strawberries, at room temperature
2 cups pineapple juice
1 6-oz package of wild strawberry jello

2 cups thin pretzels, crushed (not pulverized)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted

1 8 oz package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 cups Cool Whip (I think that you could use homemade whip cream if you’re averse to Cool Whip and/or you have an extra thousand calories to spare)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the pineapple juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the juice boils, mix in the jello powder. Add the frozen strawberries along with their juices and stir to combine. Pour jello mixture into a bowl/pan large enough to hold it all and refrigerate.

Combine pretzels, 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a 9×13 baking dish that has been lightly oiled either with Pam or butter. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove to cool.

While the pretzel mixture is cooling slightly, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then fold in the Cool Whip about 1/3 at a time so the mixture remains fluffy and light. Spread this over the slightly cooled pretzel crust.

When the jello in the fridge is slightly set (i.e.; if you shake the pan, it should shake versus slosh), lightly spread it evenly over the cream.

Refrigerate for a few hours to let the jello fully set. Cut and serve!

I didn’t take a picture of ours but for the sake of thoroughness, here’s a picture I found on the internet of a slice.



The carrot cake recipe is from one of dad’s coworkers. Dad proclaimed it the best he ever had, so naturally mom and I had to make it better. 😉 To make it extra special (better), we covered the iced cake with coconut flakes that we toasted in the oven at 350 degrees.



Coconut Carrot Cake

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups carrots, shredded (about 3 medium sized carrots)
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup golden raisin

2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup toasted coconut

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 8-inch cake pans (9×13 sheet pan is fine). Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

In a food processor, combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Run machine for a couple of minutes until the eggs get frothy and pale in color. Slowly drizzle in the oil to create an emulsion, like making dressing. Mix for about 20 seconds.

Pour dry ingredients into food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times until just combined.

Pour mixture into a medium bowl and fold in the ingredients from carrots to raisins.

Pour into pans (2 cups in each pan if using the cake pans) and bake for 30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean and sides pull away from pan. It needs about 50 minutes to an hour if baked in a 9×13 baking dish.

To make the frosting, beat the cheese, butter, and vanillla at high speed until fluffy. At medium speed, beat in sugar and cinnamon. Use 1/2 cup on top of all 3 layers; spread a thin layer around the sides. Coat the cake with toasted coconut.



We baked our coconut cake in a 9×13 dish and cut it in half to make a two layer cake. I also cut the frosting down to use only 2 package of cream cheese and 6 tablespoons of butter. The ingredients list looks a bit long but once everything was measured out, it took literally 5 minutes to make the batter.

Both desserts were very delicious and hopefully mom and my version of the carrot cake has taken first place in dad’s heart! 🙂