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Easy Chess Squares Recipe

This Southern chess squares recipe is a great homemade dessert for any occasion, including holidays. The dessert recipe is quick and easy to make and will serve a large crowd. Set aside that cookbook and give these gooey treats a try.

Chess Cake Squares

Chess square on a black plate.

The chess squares, a.k.a. chess bars or chess cake, are an easy recipe to make from scratch that all of your friends and family will love. The gooey butter cake with a cream cheese mixture top is super easy to make.

The squares, made with cream cheese, are perfect for parties, Christmas, or any time of year. The dessert, made with cake mix, plenty of butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and eggs, will become one of your absolute favorites.

Chess squares stacked with powdered sugar on top.

Time To Eat Our Favorite Dessert

If y’all ever go to church in the South, you can be assured of a couple of things. First of all, there will be a potluck after the service–at least once a month.

Second- and most importantly- the dessert table will be covered up with treats. Southerners love to bake. A lot. And this dessert is a Southern thing.

We traveled back to Tennessee last Thanksgiving and we went to the church my grandparents attended when they were alive. We got lucky enough to attend a potluck after, and let me tell you, the Southern food was out of this world good. And that dessert table. Mmm… I’m pretty sure chess squares are almost always on the table. But, you gotta be first in line to get one because if you decide to stand around and chit-chat, they’ll be long gone, and you’ll be sorry. Real sorry.

Dessert bars with powdered sugar

Chess Squares Ingredients

  • Yellow cake mix
  • Eggs
  • Cream cheese (softened)
  • Butter (melted)
  • Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)

How To Make The Southern Chess Squares Recipe

  1. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the boxed yellow cake mix, one egg, and the butter. 
  3. Press it into the bottom of a greased dish. 
  4. In another bowl, mix the softened cream cheese, two eggs, and powdered sugar. 
  5. Pour over the cake mixture and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown. 
  6. Cool before cutting the chess squares.

A Classic And Simple Dessert

I have always loved these easy chess squares with cake mix. I love them so much that they should call them crack squares. They are addictive and could potentially start a fight over the last square–yep, even in the church line.

The bottom is made out of a box of yellow cake mix, one egg, and melted butter–you can’t go wrong.

The inside is gooey and rich, and the top has a bit of a crunch. And, if you’re like me and you love the corners on brownies, you will love these chewy corners. 

The best part is that they are as easy as cake to make–literally. So, if you’re a Chatty Cathy and you miss a chance at a chess square, you can make some at home (and keep it all to yourself).

Ok, let’s get down to business.

Oh, and if you decide to make this happy little chess squares recipe (or chess bars recipe, as some call it) for the potluck, be sure to print it out and bring the recipe with you.

Everyone will want a copy. I’ve had strangers approach me at potlucks just to get the recipe because it’s that good.

Full printable recipe with measurements and instructions listed below in the recipe card.

How To Make The Dessert Recipe

Bottom Cake Layer

Mixing ingredients for cake

In a medium-sized bowl, mix one stick of melted butter, one egg, and cake mix.

You can make more than one type of chess squares, as well. Just about any type of cake mix will do.

In the fall, give these spice cake pecan chess squares a try.

Picture of yellow cake pressed into a cake pan.

Press it into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan. Trust me, it’s going to be tough not to reach into the oven with a fork and start eating because it will make your kitchen smell amazing. 

Gooey Top Layer

Top layer mix in a mixer bowl.

In another medium-sized bowl, mix the softened cream cheese, eggs, and powdered sugar with an electric mixer.

Gooey mixture in a pan.

Pour the powdered sugar mixture on top of the cake mixture. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Look at that smooth and delicious cream cheese and powdered sugar mixture. Helloooo. This really is one of my favorite recipes. Be sure not to eat too much of it before you pour it into the pan. Yes, this could happen. I would never do such a thing (or at least I would never tell anyone – but you know now, so don’t tell on me-shhh).

Brace yourself, and it’s fixin’ to smell like your kitchen is a dessert factory. Look out!

chess squared baked in a casserole dish

See how the top is a light golden brown? That’s what you’re aiming for. It will have a bit of a crackly top. 

Let the chess squares cool. That’s the hard part. I need a lock on my silverware drawer because I will grab a fork faster than you can blink and start digging in. I waited long enough to get a picture for you without fork marks. It wasn’t easy. 

A slice of chess squares on a counter.

Tips for Perfect Chess Squares

Creating the perfect Chess Squares doesn’t just rely on following the recipe – a few tips and tricks can make all the difference. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that your Chess Squares turn out perfectly every time:

  • Use room-temperature eggs: When your eggs are at room temperature, they will be incorporated more easily into the batter. You will end up with a smoother texture.
  • Don’t over-mix the batter: I’ve done this plenty of times, and it leads to tough and dense squares. Just mix until everything is combined.
  • Let the squares cool completely: Let the chess squares cool completely before cutting. They will set up better and have cleaner cuts. This is the hard part because I want to eat them so badly when they come out of the oven. The struggle is real.
  • Try different toppings: While the classic Chess Squares are delicious on their own, you can get creative with toppings like Cool Whip, fresh berries, or a drizzle of chocolate or caramel sauce.
  • Store the chess squares properly: If you have any leftovers, put them in an airtight container and keep them refrigerated.
Powdered sugar chess squares on the counter.

More Delicious Desserts

If you love this chess squares recipe, give lemon chess squares a try or something a little different, like chocolate caramel poke cake.

If you are taking this to a potluck or party, make sure you make it several hours ahead of time so it can cool down and set up a little. It will cut a lot easier that way. 

Taking a bite out of a chess square with a fork.

I’ve had quite a few requests for chess squares without cake mix, and I made a recipe for them with ladyfingers. The recipe tastes just as fantastic, and it’s also just as easy to make because you simply set the ladyfingers in the dish rather than use the dry cake mix. 

How To Store The Chess Squares

Store the chess squares in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap.

Do Chess Squares Need To Be Refrigerated?

The chess squares need to be refrigerated because of the cream cheese.

Dessert bars on a counter.

Easy Chess Squares Recipe

Chess squares are such a delight, and everyone loves them. You can make them for parties year-round. Be sure to print out the recipe card below with measurements and instructions. And let me know in the comments below what you love to add to the top.

Dessert bars with powdered sugar

A Southern Girl's Chess Squares

Yield: 20 pieces
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Rest Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours

Chess squares are such an easy homemade recipe. The bars, made from scratch, are quick and easy to make, and all your friends will will be begging for another piece.

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 stick butter (melted)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cake mix, melted butter, and 1 egg.
  2. Press into the bottom of a greased 9" x 13" pan.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, mix 2 eggs, cream cheese, and powdered sugar.
  4. Pour over the cake mix.
  5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  6. Cool before cutting the squares.

Notes

Creating the perfect Chess Squares doesn't just rely on following the recipe - a few tips and tricks can make all the difference. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that your Chess Squares turn out perfectly every time:

1. Use room temperature eggs: When your eggs are at room temperature they will incorporate more easily into the batter. You will end up with a smoother texture.

2. Don't over mix the batter: I've done this plenty of times and it leads to tough and dense squares. Just mix until everything is combined.

3. Let the squares cool completely: Let the chess squares cool completely before cutting. They will set up better and have cleaner cuts. This is the hard part because I want to eat them so badly when they come out of the oven. The struggle is real.

4. Try different toppings: While the classic Chess Squares are delicious on their own, you can get creative with toppings like Cool Whip, fresh berries, or a drizzle of chocolate or caramel sauce.

5. Store the chess squares properly: If you have any leftovers, put them in an airtight container and keep them refrigerated.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 296Total Fat: 12.2gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 49.7mgSodium: 247.7mgCarbohydrates: 44.7gFiber: 0.2gSugar: 35gProtein: 2.89g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

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Cat

Sunday 28th of January 2024

I had never made chess bars until today and they were amazing! Great for game day.

Julie Pollitt

Monday 29th of January 2024

So glad that you liked them!

Missy

Saturday 27th of January 2024

I was looking for a new cake mix dessert and came across this chess squares recipe. It was so easy to make and my kids have already asked me to make it again.

Julie Pollitt

Saturday 27th of January 2024

So great to hear! I am so glad you all loved it!

Pam

Monday 18th of December 2023

Baked at 300 for 55 - 60 minutes and they do not seem to be set. Tried this recipe at the last minute. I guess I will put them back in the oven @ 350 to try to get them to set. Anyone else with this problem?

Simon

Saturday 9th of December 2023

Hi, how many grams is the yellow cake mix? My gran used to make this, which has been a long lost family treat.

Julie Pollitt

Saturday 9th of December 2023

Hi Simon, you can use a 15.25 ounce box. Glad you found the recipe!

Shannan

Tuesday 5th of December 2023

I have made these for many years. I add chopped pecans to the cake mix before I bake absolutely wonderful. Now I have a question do you think that maybe I could add banana cream pudding? I'm hoping they would taste like banana pudding bars. Any suggestions?

Julie Pollitt

Wednesday 6th of December 2023

What a great idea with the pecans! Are you going to use a pudding mix from the store or homemade? If you used a mix, you could just add the dry mixture to the cake mixture and make it that way.

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