Chess Squares, or also known as chess bars, chess pie squares, or gooey butter cake, is a simple and delicious classic Southern dessert made with cake mix. They are gooey, flaky, buttery….and so addictive!
These delicious chess squares are made with only 6 simple ingredients. So not only are they yummy, chess bars make the perfect quick and easy dessert, perfect for potlucks or the gatherings.
These chess squares remind me so much of my beloved Mini Chocolate Chess Pie – another classic Southern dessert that I have a strong affinity towards.
Amazing Chess Bars
I was introduced to this fabulous chess square recipe by my even more fabulous friend and assistant, Kendall. Kendall’s family have made this recipe for years – it is a tried and true recipe that everyone loves.
A few weeks ago, Kendall had some leftovers chess bars from a party and brought them to me when she came over. I took one bite and I couldn’t believe how gooey and buttery and perfect they were.
I loved these chess squares so much I knew all you lovely people need some chess squares in your life as well.
When I learned that these chess bars was made with yellow cake mix and requires only 6 pantry-friendly ingredients, it was totally the icing on the cake. Yummy AND easy?! Yes, please.
There’s a layer of buttery crust at the bottom, the top is flaky and caramelized, and the middle is a layer of ooey gooey buttery goodness.
These gooey chess squares reminds me of a chess pie, but instead of the pie crust, it’s a buttery bar crust. And instead of a round pie shape it is in square shaped bar form.
If you love a good Southern chess pie, chess squares is kinda like a long distant cousin that is just as delicious.
Here are the short-list of ingredients you will need for this chess squares (or chess bars, gooey butter cake…) recipe:
- yellow cake mix – a key ingredient for the crust (bottom) of the chess squares.
- unsalted butter – make sure butter is softened so that it is easy to combine. Unsalted butter is preferred to salted butter to control the salt content.
- eggs – used for the crust and also the gooey chess square mixture in the middle.
- cream cheese – used for the gooey mixture in the middle; softened so that it is combined easily.
- vanilla extract – pure vanilla extract works best for this
- powdered sugar – this makes the gooey middle filling light, soft and fluffy
How to Make Chess Squares
Let’s make some chess squares!
You will need a 9′ x 13′ baking dish – either metal or glass. I used a metal dish for this and it took about 30 minutes. If you are using a glass dish, you will need to bake it for a few minutes longer.
Mix everything to combine. Mixture should be crumbly and soft, but not super wet.
Make the topping: Next make that soft gooey center by beating together softened cream cheese, vanilla extract and three eggs until smooth.
Then slowly add powdered sugar to the mixture until completely combined. Mixture should be wet and thick.
Layer: Press the crust mixture (cake mix mixture) onto the bottom of a greased 9′ x 13′ rectangular baking dish or pan.
Then pour the topping mixture over it.
Bake: Bake chess squares in the oven at 350℉ for 30 minutes. When chess bars are done, middle should be set and the top slightly browned.
Cool: Let it cool in the pan for ~ 1 hour before slicing into smaller bars. Make sure it is completely cool before cutting into them!
At the end, a flaky caramelized top will form on top (thanks to all that sugar in the mixture!), underneath it is the ooey-gooey buttery filling, and on the bottom is that buttery crust to hold everything in place.
OH SO YUM!
Warning: prepare to be addicted to these chess squares!
Tips and Tricks
A couple of this to note when making gooey southern chess bars:
- Make sure cream cheese and butter are softened so that it is easier to combine them into the mixtures.
- Grease the pan or line with parchment paper for easy removal after baking.
- Bake time could be slightly longer if using a glass pan (versus a metal pan).
- Wait until chess squares are completely cooled before slicing into them. In my experience it takes about at least an hour or so to cool completely.
Chess bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Since there is cream cheese in these chess squares, they should be stored in the refrigerator instead of in room temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! You can do that, and you’ll get some fun and yummy variations. Chocolate cake mix and lemon cake mix will turn these into chocolate chess squares and lemon chess squares…and they are delicious!
Chess squares should be stored in the refrigerator since there is cream cheese in them.
If using a glass baking dish, chess squares may require a longer bake time. Using a metal baking dish, it typically takes me about 30 minutes to complete baking. Adjust accordingly and bake until middle is set and tops are browned.
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More Delicious Dessert Bars
- Blueberry Crumb Bars
- Snickerdoodle Bars
- S’mores Bars
- No Bake Cheesecake Bites
- Peppermint Rice Krispie Treats
- Brownie Brittle
- Mango Crumb Bars
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter softened
- 1 egg
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 1 lb powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350℉.
- In a mixing bowl, add cake mix, softened butter, and one egg. Mix thoroughly with a hand mixer or stand mixer. Press into the bottom of a greased 9'x13' pan.
- In a separate mixing bowl, beat together softened cream cheese, vanilla, and 3 eggs until smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar until completely combined. Pour over the first set of ingredients on the 9'x13' pan.
- Bake at 350℉ for 30-35 minutes. Middle should be set and the top slightly browned.
- Cool for ~ 1 hour. Slice into 24 small squares. Serve and enjoy!