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Luscious Lemon Chess Squares

Learn how to master baking luscious lemon chess squares. The sweet and tart dessert features a cake crust, crunchy top, and an ooey-gooey center. Believe me, everyone will come back and beg for more.

A lemon chess square on a blue and white plate with lemons in the background

Everyone Loves Chess Squares

Chess Squares, also known as chess cake squares, are a delicious dessert that found their roots in chess pie and they are always on dessert tables in the South. People in the South absolutely love them because of their creamy, gooey center and crunchy top. 

But, now they’ve made their way across the country because they are nothing short of amazing and decadent. I took them, on more than one occasion, to a church potluck and I consistently had people coming up and asking for the recipe. 

Whoever made chess squares should have called them crack squares because they are so addictive and almost impossible to put down. 

If you love this recipe, try a similar chess squares recipe, or chess squares without cake mix.

Tips for making lemon chess squares

  • Be sure to use a non-stick spray in the baking dish, because the edges of the chess squares will bake onto the pan and can make it tough to get off. Although, those chewy corners are my favorite part of the dessert. 
  • For this recipe, I used a yellow cake mix, but you can also use a lemon cake mix for a more lemony flavor. 
  • You can use either fresh lemon juice or lemon extract to get the tart lemon flavor. 
  • Set the butter and cream cheese on the counter to soften about an hour before mixing. If you forget (like I do often), it’s ok, but you might need to mix the ingredients a little longer to get the butter and cream cheese to a smooth consistency. 
  • Allow the lemon chess bars to cool completely before cutting. Even after they cool, they will be sticky and gooey, but that’s what makes them so delicious. 
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Lemon chess squares on a plate with sliced lemons and a lemon squeezer.

Lemon chess squares ingredients you’ll need:

  • Eggs
  • Yellowcake mix (or lemon-flavored cake mix)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cream Cheese
  • Butter
  • Lemon juice OR lemon extract
  • Lemon zest (optional)

Chess squares on a plate with sliced lemons

Tips for cutting the lemon chess squares:

  1. Place the lemon chess bars in the refrigerator for about one hour.
  2. Use a sharp knife to cut the squares.
  3. Use a metal spatula to get underneath the dessert and remove it from the pan.
  4. Remember that they will be very sticky and most likely won’t cut up perfectly, but that’s the beauty of this dessert–it’s messy, but a decadent treat.

Lemon chess squares on a plate with sliced lemons

Other items you’ll need for this dessert:

  • 13″ x 9″ casserole dish
  • Oven
  • Metal spatula
  • Sharp knife
  • One large bowl
  • One medium-sized bowl
  • Hand mixer

Full Recipe and Printable Instructions Listed Below

Cake Layer

Butter and eggs in a glass bowl

Start by adding the softened butter and one egg to a medium-sized bowl. Mix the ingredients together. 

Mixing the cake mix, lemon, and butter in a glass bowl with a hand mixer.

Next, add the yellow cake mix to the bowl and mix well with the hand mixer. 

I used a yellow cake mix, but you can also use a lemon cake mix instead, depending on how much lemon you like in your desserts. The great thing about this recipe is that you can actually use whatever cake mix you’d like to use–depending on your tastes.

Cake mix pressed into the bottom of a 9" x 13" casserole baking dish.

Press the ingredients into the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish and set it aside. Be sure to use the non-stick spray before pressing the cake into the dish, because when the squares cook, they will stick. 

I use my hands to press the cake mix into the bottom because it seems like the easiest way to do it. I spray a little non-stick spray on my hands before pressing the cake in, and that keeps it from sticking to my hands. 

Be sure to use a 9″ x 13″ baking dish because this is a very large recipe and it will take up every bit. 

Top Cream Cheese and Lemon Layer

Cream cheese in a large glass bowl

Add the softened cream cheese to a large bowl. 

Adding eggs and powdered sugar to a large bowl

Next, add the powdered sugar and three eggs to the bowl. 

Pouring lemon juice into a bowl with powdered sugar and eggs.

Finally, add the lemon juice and the lemon zest to the bowl. If you’d like to use lemon extract instead of juice, that will work, as well–just replace the lemon juice with two teaspoons of lemon extract. 

Mixing the lemon juice, powdered sugar, and eggs together.

Mix all of the ingredients.

You can see a few lumps in this batter and it’s because I forgot to leave the cream cheese out to soften. I just mixed it a minute more and got most of the lumps out. If you don’t get them all, don’t worry because they will soften and cook up perfectly. 

Lemon chess squares in a casserole dish ready to go into the oven

Bake the lemon chess squares for 40 to 50 minutes. The squares will get brown and crackly on the top as they cook. 

I tested the lemon chess squares after about 40 minutes with a cake tester and it still had quite a bit of gooeyness on it, so I cooked it for about 10 more minutes. The bars will continue to cook a little as they cool. 

The centers will be gooey, so don’t overcook them. There will still be a little bit of gooeyness on the squares when you use a cake tester. 

A lemon chess square on a blue and white plate with sliced lemons

I love the way the top browns and gets crackly because it helps make a chewy and crunchy texture that is decadent and divine. 

You can add a little dusting of powdered sugar over the top before you serve them for some extra sweetness. 

Check out the lemon chess squares card below, grab those ingredients, and start baking! I love this recipe and I think you’ll love this one, too. It is highly requested and everyone loves it!

Then, share your comments below and share a picture of your dessert on the Pinterest Pin!  If you made any changes or added something different, be sure to share it with us!

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Yield: 30

Luscious Lemon Chess Squares

A lemon chess square on a blue and white plate with lemons in the background

Learn how to master baking luscious lemon chess squares. The dessert features a crunchy top and an ooey-gooey center and believe me everyone will come back and beg for more.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes


  • 4 eggs
  • 15.25 oz. box yellow cake mix
  • 8 Tbs. butter, softened
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice OR 2 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees
  2. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish with non-stick spray
  3. Mix one egg, butter, and cake mix in a medium-sized bowl.
  4. Press it into the greased baking dish.
  5. In a large bowl, mix three eggs, cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice (OR lemon extract) and the lemon zest.
  6. Pour over the cake mix.
  7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 176Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 163mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 0gSugar: 21gProtein: 2g

Nutrition is approximate.

Did you make this recipe?

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

Lemon Cream Pie is a delicious dessert that is similar to lemon meringue pie.

Lemon Cream Pie

Check out other delicious recipes at

Southern BiteJulia’s Simply Southern, Southern Home Express and The Country Cook

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Sweetened Condensed Milk Chocolate Pie

Chocolate Chess Pie - Back To My Southern Roots

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

[…] Luscious lemon chess squares […]

Jess D.

Saturday 6th of June 2020

Question is it 2 cups powdered sugar or 4 because recipe information shows 16oz but shows 4 cups next to it. Thanks

Julie Pollitt

Monday 8th of June 2020

Hi Jess, that's a great question. It calls for 1 pound of powdered sugar. Sorry about the confusion! I changed it in the recipe card. Thanks for pointing that out.


Monday 24th of February 2020

Yum! We would probably call this a lemon gooey butter cake in my neck of the woods, but it's delicious no matter the name. I wish I had a piece now!

Julie Pollitt

Monday 24th of February 2020

Thanks, Carlee! It's a fun dessert!

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Thursday 20th of February 2020

[…] If you love lemon desserts, try lemon chess squares.  […]

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Thursday 20th of February 2020

[…] you love this cake, give lemon chess squares a […]