Easy Chess Squares Recipe

Chess Squares

The Spruce


  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Servings: 12 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
615 Calories
51g Fat
39g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 615
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 51g 65%
Saturated Fat 31g 153%
Cholesterol 206mg 69%
Sodium 95mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 39g 14%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 4g
Calcium 43mg 3%
*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.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

In the South, you will see home-baked chess squares at the farmer's markets, in bakeries, office parties, and get-togethers. The squares are a Southern classic and always a popular choice. The easy cream cheese mixture makes a custard-like filling similar to a chess pie filling.

These chess squares are particularly easy because they're made with a cake mix. Use a butter cake mix, a basic white, or yellow cake mix. A butter pecan mix would be delicious as well. Add a little vanilla flavoring to the filling, if you like, and 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.


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C/Gas 4).

    Chess square ingredients.
  2. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan.

    Grease baking pan
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  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat one large egg.

    Beat egg in bowl
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  4. 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.

    Mix cake mix, butter and egg. Pat down in baking sheet
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  5. 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.

    Beat cream cheese, confectioners sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth
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  6. Pour the cream cheese batter over the first layer and spread to cover evenly.

    Pour cream cheese mixture over baking pan
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  7. Bake the chess squares for 35 to 40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned.

    Bake chess squares until browned
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  8. Cook 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.

    Cool on rack before cutting
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  9. This recipe makes about 24 (2-inch) bars. Store the bars in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    Finished chess squares
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*1 pound of confectioners' sugar will measure about 3 1/2 level cups, unsifted.

Recipe Variations

Try these variations to change up the classic chess bars:

  • 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.