|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 51g||65%|
|Saturated Fat 31g||153%|
|Total Carbohydrate 39g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
In the South, you will see home-baked chess squares at farmers markets, in bakeries, at office parties, and get-togethers—they're always a popular choice. As you might expect, these bars are a riff on that sweet Southern classic pie, but they're also not too different from ooey gooey butter cake (which is popular in the Midwest) or Philadelphia-style cake. The easy cream cheese mixture makes a custard-like filling similar to a chess pie filling and results in a sweet, simple, and gooey baked good.
These chess squares are particularly easy because they're made with a cake mix. Use a butter cake mix, a basic white cake mix, or yellow cake mix. You can vary the cake mix you work with to customize the dessert—butter pecan mix would be delicious.
To make these chess squares look delectable, dust them with sifted confectioners' sugar after they've cooled. They're so tasty and very easy. Keep a cake mix in your pantry, and you'll be ready to make chess squares anytime.
Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
In a small bowl, lightly beat 1 of the large eggs.
In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine the cake mix, butter, and the beaten egg. Beat on low speed until the butter is blended into the dry cake mix and the egg mixture and the crumbs begin to clump together. Stop mixing and pat the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat until the mixture is light and well blended. Beat in the remaining 3 large eggs. Continue beating until very smooth. Beat in the vanilla, if using.
Pour the cream cheese batter over the first layer and spread to cover evenly.
Bake the chess squares for 35 to 40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned.
Cool on a rack and then cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to chill thoroughly before cutting. They are a little gooier if you cut them while they are still warm.
This recipe makes about 24 (2-inch) bars. Store the bars in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
How to Store
- These will keep for up to five days and store best in the refrigerator in a covered container; they're especially good cold. If you're storing a lot of them, it's best to keep rows of them separated by wax paper so they don't stick together.
- You can also freeze chess bars. For easy thawing, wrap individual squares in waxed paper and place them in a plastic resealable bag or freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature before enjoying.
- Chocolate Chess Bars: Use a chocolate devil's food cake mix or fudge cake mix for the cake layer and add 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa to the cream cheese mixture along with the vanilla, if using.
- Lemon Chess Squares: Add the juice and zest of one lemon to the cream cheese mixture and omit the vanilla.
- Key Lime Chess Squares: Add 4 tablespoons of key lime juice to the cream cheese mixture along with the finely grated zest of 1 lime.
Why Are They Called Chess Squares?
Some reports indicate that the earliest chess pies were made with chestnut flour, which could somewhat account for the dessert's name. Some suggest the dessert could be named after a pie chest or a town named Chester. But the most popular origin story for the name chess pie (and in turn chess squares) is that the dessert was made using easy-to-find ingredients around the house and called "jus' pie" which turned into chess pie.