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Chess Squares

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.

A stack of chess squares with some in the background

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:

Top down view of chess bars
  • 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.

Make the crust: to make the bottom (crust) for chess squares, combine yellow cake mix, softened unsalted butter and one egg using a hand mixer or stand mixer.

Mix everything to combine. Mixture should be crumbly and soft, but not super wet.

Before and after mixing cake mix, butter and eggs in a mixing bowl

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.

Combining powdered sugar, cream cheese, eggs and vanilla extract to make the topping

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.

Crust mixture pressed down at the bottom of the baking dish, followed by pouring topping mixture

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.

Fully baked Southern chess bars before slicing

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.


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.

Storage Instructions

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.

Chess squares lined on top of a parchment paper

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a different flavor cake mix?

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!

Can I store chess squares in room temperature?

Chess squares should be stored in the refrigerator since there is cream cheese in them.

Why does my chess square take longer to bake/set?

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.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS RECIPE? Please comment below and give us a 5-star rating! This will help others find this recipe on Google and Pinterest. We very much appreciate your help! 🤍

More Delicious Dessert Bars

Square pieces of chess bars placed next to each other

Chess Squares

Easy and delicious chess squares with a buttery crust, a gooey center, and a flaky caramelized crust on top. This classic Southern dessert is made with 6 simple ingredients, and is also known as chess bars, gooey butter cake, or chess pie squares.
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Southern
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 24 servings
Calories: 230kcal
Author: MinShien



  • 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!


Bake time could be slightly longer if using a glass pan (versus a metal pan).


Calories: 230kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 198mg | Potassium: 34mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 283IU | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Take a pic and tag me at @joyous.apron, or hashtag #joyousapron on Instagram!

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5 from 7 votes (1 rating without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    These are easy to make & so yummy. Everyone loved them at the cookie exchange at work!

    1. Joyous Apron says:

      I’m so glad to hear that! Thanks for making it and sharing how it went!

  2. 5 stars
    Addictive, I’ll say! They may not look fancy, but don’t fool yourselves, they are AMAZING!

    1. Joyous Apron says:

      Happy to hear that you love it!

  3. 5 stars
    Made these for a family gathering and they were a hit!

    1. Joyous Apron says:

      Glad to hear that the family enjoyed the recipe, Nikki!

  4. 5 stars
    They were very delicious.

    1. Joyous Apron says:

      Thank you Marie!

  5. 5 stars
    My grandmother used to make these and I always loved them! So glad I found this recipe, they tasted just like hers!!

    1. Joyous Apron says:

      Aw thank you! This is such a compliment!

  6. 5 stars
    They’re a hit in every occasion! Can’t wait to make this again.

    1. Joyous Apron says:

      That’s awesome!