The world lost a firecracker just a few days before Christmas. My Great Grandma Thelma passed away at 99 years old, but her spirit can’t be extinguished.

Grandma was as comfortable with a gun and a dog as she was in a dress and pearls. As if to match her personality, her hair remained a shocking shade of red right up until the last few years of her life, when soft white took over. The lines on her face deepened and multiplied over time, no doubt spurred on by belly laughs and smiles.

She was a home to those who needed a home, a laugh to those who needed a laugh, and a light to all of us.

Grandma Thelma through the years.

My mom, who was very close to her grandma and lived with her for awhile growing up, got to travel to Missouri to attend her funeral. Person after person stood up and reflected how Grandma had touched their lives. Mom says she couldn’t hold it together enough to talk about her Grandma then, but when she returned home, she sat down with my dad and began the task of capturing Nettie Thelma Logsden in words.

I can’t think of a better way to introduce you to this wonderful woman than to share Mom’s list with you. So without further ado, here are Life Lessons from Grandma Thelma. Some of them are funny, some of them are profound, some of them are downright suspect. But they’re all thoroughly Thelma.

1. Work hard. People are counting on you.

2. Turtles will always return to one spot. Best to paint your initials on their shells (hot pink paint will work) to identify them later.

3. Outhouses also look great painted hot pink!

4. Bacon grease, duck eggs, and bread soaked in grease make healthy dog food.

5. Spoons, Yahtzee, Rummy, and Skip Bo are great fun!

6. Cold beer and peanuts taste exceptionally good after mowing the lawn.

7. A bite of peanut butter will take the beer smell away (in case someone drives up)!

8. Empty your own “potty.”

9. A straw hat pulled way down will keep your hair from blowing in the wind while driving.

10. Empty bottles and doll heads are keepers!

11. Everything is a keeper!

12. Enjoy the silly things in life: Furbies, Billy Bass, Rockin’ Santas, et cetera.

13. Flour with weevils is fine; just sift them out and it’ll be good as new!

14. If the dog was good enough to tree something (even at 3 a.m.), it’s our duty to go shoot it!

15. If you are old enough to reach the pedal, you are old enough to drive.

16. If something is on sale, buy 10. Even if it’s bubble bath and you don’t have a bathroom. You’ll use it someday.

17. Under the bed is a great place to store all the Cokes you bought on sale.

18. Rock hunting is fun (especially hunting for shiny ones. Or round ones. Or flat ones. Or arrow heads. Well, pretty much ANY rock!)

19. Don’t do anything until the supper dishes are done. You’ll hate coming back to do them later.

20. Fishing, hunting, camping are all fun when done with family.

21. Annie Over is a wonderful game, but it’s hard to find a place to play!

22. Guitar, banjo, harmonica, and piano are all fun to play, and you can teach yourself!

23. Staying up late (even all night) is okay.

24. You can tie a string around a lizard’s tail and pin it to your shirt and it will wiggle. Beetles with strings tied to their leg are great fun, too. (Julie’s note: WHAT?! Really, Grandma?! Do not try this at home, y’all.)

25. You can drive better and faster if you hunch over the steering wheel. (Don’t forget the straw hat!)

26. The fish in Peggy’s lake like to eat chicken fat.

27. When you stir your gravy, put your whole body into it.

28. You don’t really ever need lunch.

29. Take people in if they need a place to stay.

30. Aunt Jaquie’s house is a great place to wash your hair, do laundry, or just hang out.

31. Certain plant leaves are good for making “frog tongues.”

32. Sleeping is better with a small pillow between your knees, a fan on, and a big swig of mineral “oral” before bed. (A True Confessions magazine helps, too.)

33. An electric skillet makes great fried chicken. (Or pork steaks!)

34. Waffles are great with white corn syrup and real butter.

35. Never talk bad about anyone. (Never THINK bad about anyone.)

36. Store-bought frozen cream pies are great!

37. Churn your own butter and drink the buttermilk.

38. Writing on the “tunnel” walls is fun.

39. A whole lot of kids can fit into one car on “$1.00 night” at Pine Hill Drive-In.

40. Grandkids are special!

41. Great grandkids are special!

42. Great, great, grandkids are special!

43. Milnot Cheesecake is very easy and tasty.

I may not agree with Grandma Thelma on every detail (I throw away my doll heads, personally. And OH MY GOSH, no live animals are pinned to clothing on my watch), but she’s struck plenty of truth here. She lived a bright, full, strong life, and treated every person who walked into that life with love and respect. I’m glad the world had her for 99 years.

One thing she was certainly right about is Milnot Cheesecake. It’s an old no-bake recipe named after Milnot, an evaporated milk substitute. The Milnot or evaporated milk whips into a whipped cream consistency. When combined with cream cheese and a package of lemon Jell-O gelatin, it creates a light, lemony cloud of mousse. Grandma Thelma used to wake up on occasion and declare, “I think I’ll make a Milnot cheesecake.”

But the title of this essay isn’t a mistake. The dessert pictured here isn’t a Milnot Cheesecake. It’s a Milnot Cheesecake Cheesecake.

Never content to leave well enough alone, I decided to stack a layer of Milnot Cheesecake on top of a layer of creamy, thick regular cheesecake. This double-layered dessert has a mixture of textures and a light, airy flavor that would make Grandma Thelma proud. The recipe might look a little fiddly — and true, it isn’t a dessert you can whip up in a few minutes — but it can be broken up over a few days into very manageable pieces.

In honor of Grandma Thelma, have a slice! (Then go finish your supper dishes. You aren’t going to want to come back to those later.)

Milnot Cheesecake Cheesecake

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, using an age-old recipe for Milnot Cheesecake found on Recipes for Laughter
Yield: serves 8-10

This recipe is a twist on the classic, no-bake Milnot Cheesecake. A layer of fluffy, delicious Milnot cheesecake sits like a delicate lemon cloud over a rich layer of traditional cheesecake. A cinnamon graham cracker crust encircles the whole shebang. See the note on scheduling below to break this recipe into a few manageable parts.

Cheesecake Ingredients:
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 heaping cups graham cracker crumbs (I use the cinnamon kind)
6 tablespoons butter

Milnot Cheesecake Topping Ingredients:
1/2 small package of lemon Jell-o gelatin mix (this will be 3 tablespoons and 1/4 teaspoon of the powder)
1/2 cup boiling water
8 ounces (1 package) of cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
a few drops yellow food coloring, optional
1/2 of a 12-ounce can Milnot or evaporated milk, chilled (this will be about 3/4 cup)
crumbled graham cracker crumbs for decorationg

Notes: Cheesecakes are simple and super customizable. New to cheesecake making? Watch my 6 minute Cheesecake Video Tutorial for visual assistance! This recipe can be divided up over several days. You can make the cheesecake one day and chill it overnight, make and add the Milnot cheesecake topping the next day, and serve on day 3!

Make the cheesecake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a springform cheesecake pan. Combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Using a flat-sided glass, press into an even layer covering the bottom and sides of your cheesecake pan (you want it to be tall — try to get to about 2.5-3 inches high — and a little thicker than for your usual cheesecake; maybe 1/4 inch thick so it won’t crumble). Bake the crust for about 6 minutes and let it cool as you make your cheesecake filling.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended. Beat in the flour. Add in the vanilla and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Pour the filling into your crust.

Bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, and the center moves only very slightly when the pan is lightly shaken (about 40 minutes). Check while baking periodically and put a pie shield (or strips of foil) around the top of your pan to protect the crust edges if they’re getting too dark. Just don’t let the shield/foil touch the crust — it’s delicate and might crumble.

When you pull the cheesecake out, you can use a sharp knife to score a circle around the top of the cheesecake about an inch inside the crust so that as it cools and chills/sinks, it won’t pull the crust in too much. Don’t worry if the circle you cut isn’t pretty, because you won’t be able to see it in the finished product! Let cheesecake cool completely on a wire rack before chilling it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Make Milnot Cheesecake Topping: Dissolve Jell-o in boiling water and chill in the refrigerator until slightly thickened, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, cream the cream cheese, sugar, food coloring, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat the chilled Jell-o into the cream cheese mixture until completely combined and smooth.

In a large chilled bowl, whip the chilled Milnot with a chilled beater until it forms stiff peaks. Stir about 1/3 of the Milnot mixture into the cream cheese mixture to lighten it up. Then gently fold the rest of the whipped Milnot in until the mixture is uniform in color and completely combined. Pour Milnot filling evenly onto your cheesecake (you will use most of it but not quite all — pour the remainder into a separate dish and cover with graham cracker crumbs. Chill it to make a separate “individual” cheesecake dessert!). Garnish your cheesecake with graham cracker crumbs. Chill the cake for 8 hours. Keep refrigerated and serve chilled.

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70 Comments on Milnot Cheesecake Cheesecake

  1. Nicole
    January 10, 2012 at 1:32 am (12 years ago)

    What a lovely tribute. And your Great-Grandma sounds an awful lot like my Grandmother! Though I have to say, we never pinned a lizard on anything.

    She did, however, have a talent for making everything seem special. Even jello topped with evaporated milk (poor man’s fruit with cream), and ritz crackers with jello pudding (instant chocolate pie!).

    We’re very blessed to have had such fantastic, strong women in our lives. So sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your memories. And making me remember things I shouldn’t ever lose sight of!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      January 10, 2012 at 11:41 am (12 years ago)

      Aw, so true, Nicole! Thanks for sharing your memories as well. And actually, I’m glad they didn’t involve any pinned animals. 😉

  2. Kristina
    January 10, 2012 at 1:58 am (12 years ago)

    I was reading through this lovely post, thinking to myself “is this a double decker cheesecake??” as I could faintly see a layer demarcation… I really want to make this exact recipe, as cheesecake is my absolute favorite.

    I am so sorry for your loss of your Great Grandma Thelma – she certainly sounds like a firecracker. This was a wonderful post to read.

  3. Vivian Ruble (Mom)
    January 10, 2012 at 2:01 am (12 years ago)

    Grandma was a very special human being who taught me so much about life. She taught me life could be happy, and filled with love, and fun. She never wasted one single day of her life.

    The lizards were for the kids. She tied a tiny string to the tail and then pinned that onto her shirt. Grandkids LOVED it. She also taught us to pet the tiny belly and they go into sort of a trance and get very quiet. Oh the knowledge of Thelma Logsden! 🙂 I will truly miss her for all the days of my life, but I will see her again. You see, my Grandmother was a Christian and is with Jesus today. Someday we will meet again and hopefully play a great game of Annie, Annie Over! Meanwhile enjoy this delicious Milnot Cheesecake, Cheesecake! 🙂 She would be proud!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      January 10, 2012 at 11:43 am (12 years ago)

      Thanks for this list, Mom. I’m betting there’s the perfect place to place Annie Over in heaven.

  4. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga
    January 10, 2012 at 2:02 am (12 years ago)

    This is such a touching post and I am crying both tears of joy and sadness…so much of the post reminds me of my own Grandma, right down to Yahtzee and Rummy. I am sad for your loss, but happy you had her and she had such a full life. My memories of my grandma and her life are similar.

    And beautiful food to go with the beautiful post.

  5. Joanne
    January 10, 2012 at 2:36 am (12 years ago)

    Oh Julie, I’m so sorry to hear about your great grandma. I feel like I kind of know her now a bit from this list and she must have been an amazing person and quick a kick to have around. You’re right, I can tell she would have loved this cake. And so shall we.

  6. Rho
    January 10, 2012 at 3:15 am (12 years ago)

    What a wonderful tribute. She sounds like a very classy, fun, loving and caring person.

  7. Anne
    January 10, 2012 at 3:50 am (12 years ago)

    What a delightful woman your grandmother was!

    And a lovely tribute to her, your Milnot Cheesecake Cheesecake.

    I read the post on Willow, it’s great!

    And, as a pink lover..her outfit is really nice with her white hair.

  8. beti
    January 10, 2012 at 6:19 am (12 years ago)

    I’m so sorry about your grandmother, she sounds like if she was such a great person! such a great way to remeber her with a perfect cheesecake

  9. DessertForTwo
    January 10, 2012 at 6:50 am (12 years ago)

    Awwww, I’m so sorry to hear about Grandma Thelma. But thank you so much for sharing her wisdom. Gosh, some days, I wish I could just have my grandparents back for a day and tell them all my problems, concerns & worries and hear their advice. I know they would say something in 1 sentence that would ease my mind.

    Your cheesecake cheesecake looks delicious.
    Thinking about your family in their time of loss,

  10. Liren
    January 10, 2012 at 8:20 am (12 years ago)

    Oh, what a firecracker indeed! I just loved this post and enjoyed all her pearls of wisdom – I’m inspired to paint my bathroom (since I don’t have an outhouse) hot pink, and go bake this beyond amazing cheesecake. My thoughts are with you – may you hold on to the memories and keep celebrating her life each day!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      January 10, 2012 at 11:45 am (12 years ago)

      LOL, Liren, your family would wonder what in the world got into you (and they might hide the paintbrushes) 😉 Thank you!

  11. Lauren at Keep It Sweet
    January 10, 2012 at 11:17 am (12 years ago)

    Sounds like Thelma was a unique and lively person! Your photos of her are great. And as always, what a wonderful looking dessert, the cheesecake is gorgeous!

  12. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    January 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm (12 years ago)

    What a lovely cake! Your Grandma looks like such a nice woman too. I like when you said “a home when you needed a home” – that’s exactly how I feel about my Grandma 🙂

  13. Sandra
    January 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm (12 years ago)

    I’m sorry for your loss and hope you’ll always be comforted by your memories. This cheesecake looks super decadent and Grandma Thelma had a great sense of humor and must have been a hoot to be around. #19 is one that I tell myself all the time, Thanks Grandma Thelma.

  14. Stephanie @ okie dokie artichokie
    January 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm (12 years ago)

    What a beautiful lovely woman your great-grandma is! She sounds so sassy and down-to-earth. I think it would’ve been great fun to sit down with her and chat whilst drinking beer and munching on peanuts. 🙂 I’m so sorry for your loss Julie — these things are hard as you know but I always find comfort in knowing they are at peace now. xo

  15. angela
    January 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm (12 years ago)

    my grandma passed away this year at 95, a week before christmas. no matter how old someone is they live a hole in your heart when they are gone. but remembering all the crazy grandma moments makes me smile thru the tears in my eyes.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      January 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm (12 years ago)

      Aw *big hug* to you, Angela! I’m so sorry that you lost your grandma recently as well. I’m so glad we have those crazy grandma moments!

  16. Always Wright
    January 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm (12 years ago)

    Thanks for the beautiful words (wise ones for all of us) and photos of your Great Grandma! So sorry for your loss. I’m sure you had many happy times with her and will remember her fondly. I will share your story, photographs and recipe with my kids.

  17. Pat
    January 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm (12 years ago)

    Looks delish. What size springform pan do you suggest for this recipe? Thanks.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      January 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm (12 years ago)

      Pat, I forget — let me measure when I get home and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

      • Pat
        January 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm (12 years ago)

        Julie, did you forget about me? Still wondering what size springform pan to use.

        • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
          January 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm (12 years ago)

          Oh my gosh, Pat, I’m so sorry! I DID forget, and then I got your reminder and was all ready to send it — only to find out last night that my internet wasn’t working!! At work now and finally sending it — it’s a 9-inch springform. Sorry for the delay!

          • Pat
            January 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm (12 years ago)

            Julie, thanks so much. I can’t wait to make the cheesecake.

  18. Deea @ Sprinkle Some Sunshine
    January 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm (12 years ago)

    Loved reading the stories of your delightful great grandma! You painted a beautiful picture of her with your words. And the cheesecake looks divine! Thanks for sharing!

  19. Megan
    January 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm (12 years ago)

    I’m so sorry for your loss. She definitely sounds like she was a firecracker. I loved reading this list. And the cheesecake looks beautiful.

  20. Cristina
    January 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm (12 years ago)

    I didn’t know your blog and it’s amazing!
    I love cheesecakes… this looks really great 🙂 It’s a pity that in my country the evaporated milk isn’t usually and a little expensive.

  21. Shirley
    January 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm (12 years ago)

    Thanks so much for this. A great tribute to your loved one. I am sure she was wonderful and you loved her very much. I am new to your site, found by way of Tastespotting. The Milnot Cheesecake is what caught my eye. I have made this many many times over the years. Lemon was not our familys favorite, we like lime jell-o, I have also made cherry, raspberry & strawberry. I think lime and cherry are my favs…. Thanks again it brought back memories!!!! xoxo shirley

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      January 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm (12 years ago)

      Love all the different flavor possibilities! Welcome, Shirley! Thank you for your kind words 🙂

  22. Gio
    January 12, 2012 at 1:24 am (12 years ago)

    For a tribute as touching as this, the only thing I can really say is I’m glad you got to know your great-grandmother. I mean, truly, you’re blessed to have met the kind of woman you describe her to be. You’re so lucky Julie. 😀

    Aaannnd: Cheesecake on cheesecake sounds awesome

  23. Shumaila
    January 12, 2012 at 2:42 am (12 years ago)

    The cheesecake looks absolutely delicious! What a lovely tribute!

  24. Pauline @thelipstickcafe
    January 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm (12 years ago)

    What a beautiful story and homage to your grandmother. That cheesecake looks and sounds heavenly!

  25. Bunny
    January 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm (12 years ago)

    I’m sorry for your loss, your grandmother sounds like she was an incredible woman. This cheese cake is a keeper.

  26. Jessica @Sunny Side Up
    January 13, 2012 at 7:43 pm (12 years ago)

    Your Great Grandma sounds like a really fantastic lady. I’m sorry for your loss but the tribute you paid to her is beautiful! I love the life lessons you shared.

    And your cheesecake looks utterly divine.

  27. Erin
    January 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm (12 years ago)

    So sorry to hear about your great-grandmother. But 99?! What a life!

  28. Hilary
    January 23, 2012 at 2:49 am (12 years ago)

    I made this for a group gathering. They deemed it comparable to Cheesecake Factory! It made two cheesecakes in my pans…with leftover Milnot! Amazing!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      January 23, 2012 at 2:50 am (12 years ago)

      Hooray! I’m so glad to hear that it was enjoyed, Hilary! And comparing it to the CF is high praise indeed! Sounds like the chef did a fantastic job 😉

  29. Susan
    April 28, 2012 at 8:11 pm (12 years ago)

    Stumbled upon your page while searching for cheesecake recipes on Pinterest. Found myself stuck here reading about a woman that seems so much like myself I couldn’t tear away. Especially her love of rocks. I will be the reason NC falls into the ocean. Me and my rocks. Thank you so much for this little break I got to take with you and your family. I truly enjoyed reading this.

  30. Suzie J
    May 15, 2012 at 2:29 am (12 years ago)

    I too was looking for a cheesecake recipe and happened across it Pinterest. She had some wonderful words of wisdom. Reading it reminded me of my Mother-in-law who loved rock collecting. And the gravy making… My mom always said “It’s all in the wiggle”. I loved this so much. Thank you for sharing it. I’m going to make this cheesecake it really sounds awesome.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      May 15, 2012 at 2:38 am (12 years ago)

      Aw, I love that! It’s all in the wiggle! 😉 Thanks, Suzie! I hope you just love the cheesecake.

  31. Dawn
    July 29, 2012 at 12:44 am (12 years ago)

    As soon as I saw your Grandmother’s face, I thought, “Boy! She looks so familiar!” Then when you mentioned Missouri, that got a “Hmm…” That got me to look up her obituary. No wonder!! We have a place on Black and have been going to Zephyr for years!! Maybe she served me a cup of coffee! :-)! I wish I had known her better! What spunk!

  32. Carrie Musko
    March 21, 2013 at 9:37 pm (11 years ago)

    I too have this recipe from my mother and grandmother. I have always been asked for it this is by far the lightest cheesecake ever almost like a lemon chiffon. I have never seen it on the net before though thanks for bringing back such great moments in my life. This was a time when people took time to listen to the wind. Now we seem to be to busy to listen to each other much less our own hearts…….THANKS

  33. Brad
    March 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm (11 years ago)

    I’m the cheesecake maker in my family – planning on trying this out for Easter dinner! Do you think it would work with the Neufchatel cream cheese?

  34. Teresa
    November 26, 2014 at 8:07 pm (9 years ago)

    I had to smile as I read this! I have been all over tonight looking for Milnot and I finally found a can! My grandmother’s recipe is very similar to what yours used for the topping – only double everything except the cream cheese, and add crushed pineapple. You don’t have to bake it at all. Just make the filling and put it in the graham cracker crust. It is not too sweet, a bit tangy – and easy! So fun to have found this!

  35. Teresa
    November 26, 2014 at 9:38 pm (9 years ago)

    And, she was from Missouri also…. 🙂


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