Woolworth Icebox Cheesecake Recipe is a light and fluffy, no-bake dessert with a hint of lemon flavor on top of a graham cracker crust. I also have a Strawberry Icebox Cheesecake version!

Woolworth Icebox Cake Recipe from Overhead

Woolworth Icebox Cheesecake Recipe

Most people over a certain age have probably heard of, or even visited, a Woolworth store. It started out as a five-and-dime store, selling things that only cost 5 or 10 cents until it became a popular department store. And, the lunch counter was an added attraction, serving food, including its famous Icebox Cheesecake Recipe.

Adding Filling to Woolworth Icebox Cake Recipe

Woolworth Icebox Cheesecake Ingredients

There are two parts to this no-bake dessert–the graham cracker crust and the light filling. 

Graham Crackers: You can buy graham cracker crumbs to use for the crust (about 2 cups). Or, you could crush sheets of graham crackers. You will need about 14 full sheets of graham crackers for 2 cups of crumbs.

Cream Cheese: Be sure the cream cheese is at room temperature when creaming with the sugar.

Jello Mix: The lemon-flavored box of jello mix gives the dessert just a hint of lemon flavor (but not even close to overwhelming). You could even try other flavors of jello! 

Water: You will use both boiling water (212°F) and cold water (55°F) for the filling.

Evaporated Milk: Evaporated milk is super-concentrated milk that helps give the dessert filling its creamy texture. It should not be confused with sweetened condensed milk, which has added sugar. They should not be used interchangeably in recipes. Be sure to chill the can of evaporated milk in the freezer for about 30 minutes before using.

Adding Graham Cracker to Woolworth Icebox Cake Recipe

Do I Have to Freeze Icebox Cheesecake Recipe?

No, you don’t have to freeze this dessert, even with Icebox in the name. In fact, an icebox used to refer to a non-mechanical ‘refrigerator’ before we had electric refrigerators. So, you do have to store the cheesecake in the refrigerator (covered, for up to a week), but no need to make room in your freezer. The only freezing needed with this recipe is to chill the bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer.

Cut Into Woolworth Icebox Cake Recipe

What if My Evaporated Milk Does Not Form Peaks?

If you looked at the recipe below, you may notice the first instruction is to chill the bowl of a stand mixer, the whisk attachment, and the can of evaporated milk. If you are finding that the evaporated milk is not forming peaks, you can place the entire bowl with the contents into the freezer for 15-30 minutes and then re-whip. You’ll know it is ready to whip again when there are ice crystals on the bowl. Do not leave it longer than 30 minutes.

Evaporated milk has a lower fat content compared to whipping cream, so it’s harder to whip. This is why chilling is so important.

Fork Holding Bite of Woolworth Icebox Cake Recipe

How Does it Taste?

Heaven. Seriously! It is light as air and melts into a velvety cloud of creamy deliciousness in your mouth. It’s almost like a “cloud cheesecake”. The lemon is so subtle, if you hadn’t made it you almost wouldn’t be able to detect it is there! This dessert is worth making and there is a reason it is so famous!

More No-Bake Cheesecake Desserts

4.93 from 26 votes

Woolworth Icebox Cheesecake Recipe

Prep Time 15 minutes
Chill 12 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 12 hours 45 minutes
Woolworth Icebox Cheesecake Recipe is a light and fluffy, no-bake dessert with a hint of lemon flavor on top of a graham cracker crust.



  • 2 cups (14-16 sheets, 168 g) honey graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick / 113g) butter, melted


  • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 box (3 ounces) lemon jello mix
  • ½ cup boiling water, about 212°F
  • ½ cup cold water, about 50°F
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk, chilled in freezer for 30 minutes


  • Chill the bowl of a stand mixer, the whisk attachment, and the can of evaporated milk in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. (This will help get peaks when whipping the evaporated milk.) Do not skip this step.


  • Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, add graham crackers and sugar and mix together.
  • Add melted butter and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated (no dry spots).
  • Reserve ¼ cup of the graham cracker mixture and set aside.
  • Press the remaining crumbs firmly into the bottom of the prepared 9×13-inch baking dish. Set aside.


  • In a medium bowl cream together cream cheese and sugar with a hand mixer. Add vanilla and mix until well blended (2-3 minutes). Set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, add jello mix and boiling water. Whisk until the jello mix dissolves (1-2 minutes). Add cold water and set the mixture in the refrigerator for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the filling, but do not let the gelatin set.
  • To a stand mixer, add the chilled bowl and whisk attachment. Add the evaporated milk and mix on high until soft peaks form (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the jello mixture and continue to whisk for 30 more seconds.
  • Add cream cheese mixture and whisk for 30 more seconds.
  • Pour mixture into the pan and top with the reserved graham cracker mixture.
  • Chill overnight before serving.

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Amanda Rettke is the creator of I Am Baker, and the bestselling author of Surprise Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion – With a Little Something Extra Inside.Over the course of her 15+ year blogging adventure, she has been featured in and collaborated with the Food Network, New York Times, LA Times, Country Living Magazine, People Magazine, Epicurious, Brides, Romantic Homes, life:beautiful, Publishers Weekly, The Daily Mail, Star Tribune, The Globe and Mail, DailyCandy, YumSugar, The Knot, The Kitchn, and Parade, to name a few.

Reader Comments

  1. I have made this several times, sorry to say the lemon jello flavor is the best options, if I could find pineapple I would use that. As for the people having issues with it not setting that could be one of two things the jello powder wasn’t completely cooled down, or only half an hour in the freezer for the evaporated milk. I put mine in the fridge for two to three days before I am using it. I have never had a problem getting it to fluff up and resemble whipping cream. As for those who say it is too sweet use half the sugar you are getting sweet from jello too so that might be the reason for the too sweet taste. I also put a good drop of vanilla in.

    The evaporated milk versus using the whipping cream yes totally acceptable but that is a lot of fat between the cream cheese then the high fat content of the whipping cream.

    I have made this a few different ways, whipping cream, and also beating egg whites and plain gelatin that I broke down with pineapple juice, this one is quick and less clean up in my opinion.

    Always make sure your beaters are clean, and dry before you start whipping and use a metal bowl because that too should be chilled in your freezer before you start.

      1. The original recipe I believe was from WW2 Era, as my mother-in-law and my family also, made this. It was called the Milnot Lemon Cheesecake. Minot was the key ingredient. It is different than evaporated milk. Suddenly, after making this for over 50 years myself, the cheesecake was not coming out right. The Milnot would not make stiff peaks. This cheesecake is supposed to have a light and fluffy filling that smooshes into nothing in your mouth…light and airy. No matter what I did, the flavor was sort of there using regular evaporated milk, but it was less than half the volume, and more like pudding, not light and fluffy.

        After at least 4 calls to the Milnot people, they finally admitted that with the government not allowing any partially hydrogenated fat in foods, they had to change the Milnot formula, and said it No longer whips. They should have stated that right on the can! You may find ways to get it fluffy, but it will never equal the original Milnot recipe. Substituting whipping cream will not produce the same cheesecake either.

        1. I have the same recipe from my Grandma. It’s been a staple dessert for our family for years. I have been having the same problem with the Milnot for the last several years. Thought it was me. I’ve been making this for over 45 years and couldn’t figure out what changed. Thanks for the answer! Will try the evaporated milk. Happy to make this dessert again.

    1. I’m wondering the same thing because I really feel that it should be baked first, not only for consistency but it also gives the crust a better flavor baked

  2. Just made this. I’m not sure I can wait overnight to eat it. I licked the spatula and beaters and thought it was fabulous. My evaporated milk whipped up very nicely. I did notice store had 2% option so perhaps people who are having problems with this step got the lower fat content? I never imagined I’d love a dessert made with evaporated milk and jello but this is delicious.

  3. This is a recipe I’ve been looking for, for several years now! I’m sure Wool Worths made this too! Not denying that! Just never c had a piece there!
    My mother had this recipe on the back b of a lemon jello box! I’ve definitely seen it, but can’t find it now!
    The only difference between the two is, my mom’s recipe didn’t call for cream cheese! I’m going to try it that way and see which one I like better! Without the cream cheese, I think it would be a lot lighter! It was always a great summer desert! Cathy Lindsey

    1. I also remember it without cream cheese. Did you try it both ways? Did it work, which is better?
      Sue Madonna

  4. Great summer dessert! Light, a bit lemony, very refreshing! This is the second time I’ve made this recipe, just perfect for summer days!

    1. I’m going to try it with lime jello and put some zest of the lime into it cream cheese mixture I think it will be like key lime in a way I’m going to try it anyway I didn’t have any lemon jello and I did have lime so that’s the reason I did it that way and I think baking the crust just for a few minutes it’s really good to help it set it better it didn’t crumble so much but other than that it sounds fabulous to serve it’s simple and easy and you don’t feel like you’re eating a ton of calories haha

  5. My recipe from many years ago did not have cream cheese. I remember occasionally I added crushed, drained pineapple and small marshmallows quartered. I also added grated lemon rind. Very light and refreshing. It was used a lot for potlucks.

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