Chess Squares

This is a recipe of indistinct origin that everyone I know has made at some time or another. I’m not sure if that’s a Southern thing or not. Regardless of that, this is one of those handy fall-back recipes when you want something with a high taste to effort ratio.

These bars are so easy and so good. The crust is very thick – essentially as thick as the sweet, cream cheese-y filling – and very buttery. It all adds up to some incredible gooey goodness. Be sure to secure one for yourself, though, because they disappear very quickly.

Chess Squares

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 24 2-inch squares

Chess Squares


    For the crust:
  • 1 package yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • For the filling:
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 16 ounces confectioners' sugar
  • 2 large eggs


To make the crust:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine cake mix, butter, and egg. Stir in pecans.

Press mixture into bottom of a 9" x 13" pan.

To make the filling:

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth and well-blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Pour mixture over crust in pan.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until filling is set.


I've been making this recipe for many years. While this is not my original recipe, I have no clue where it originated.

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  1. Nan August 8, 2006 Reply

    Maybe I’m not totally objective since the baker is my sister; but, ….these are WONDERFUL!! Always good and always a hit with everyone.

  2. Mindy July 6, 2007 Reply

    I’ve made this cake with a little bit different of a recipe but it was absolutely GREAT!! I’m hooked on it! I’m sure I’ll be baking it regularly!!!!

  3. dee October 8, 2007 Reply

    on the chess bars is it white or brown sugar

  4. jennifer October 8, 2007 Reply

    Dee, it’s confectioner’s sugar.

  5. Bitsy's Cousin Teresa June 6, 2008 Reply

    Jennifer – I have now made the Chocolate
    Chess Bars a half dozen times. My friends and I up here in God’s Country (Minnesota) had never heard of them, but they are now a permanent part of our recipe collections. Thanks so much.

  6. jennifer June 6, 2008 Reply

    Teresa, I’m glad you like them! Definitely one of my favorites. :-)

  7. shasa March 21, 2009 Reply

    what brand did you use for the yellow cake mix?

  8. jennifer March 23, 2009 Reply

    shasa, I like Duncan Hines.

    • julie November 23, 2014 Reply

      With or without pudding in the mix?

  9. shasa March 23, 2009 Reply

    i made them yesterday, they were soo good!

    thanks for the recipe. this definitely will be a regular for me

  10. Debbie November 24, 2009 Reply

    A friend gave me this recipe years ago and I still make it occasionally. It’s delicious and very easy to make.


  11. Phyllis Quast June 20, 2013 Reply

    In Central Illinois over to St. Louis it’s called Gooey Butter Cake. It’s a big thing!

  12. rosey January 6, 2014 Reply

    Paula Deen calls this recipe ooey gooey butter cake which I’ve been making for a long time. so so good, yet addictive.

  13. jody May 7, 2014 Reply

    Ive had these with coconut in the filling. No recipe. Any thoughts on how much you would suggest if you were going to add coconut?

    • Author
      Jennifer McHenry May 7, 2014 Reply

      Hi, Jody. I’d add in about 1/2 cup of sweetened coconut to the filling. If necessary, you can add more, but I think that’s a good starting point.

  14. aly July 5, 2014 Reply

    Do you grease the bottom of the pan before you put crust

    • Author
      Jennifer McHenry July 7, 2014 Reply

      aly, either way is fine. There’s enough butter in the crust that it shouldn’t stick. But, a light greasing will help ensure that it doesn’t.

  15. Melissa November 10, 2014 Reply

    I just made these and mine turned out more like a cake with no crust like the pic above. I am curious if you may kno where i could have went wrong?

    • Author
      Jennifer McHenry November 10, 2014 Reply

      Hi, Melissa. Did you change anything about the recipe? Prepared as written, you should have gotten two distinct layers.

  16. Melissa November 10, 2014 Reply

    They had No crust,It was more like a cake.. :(

  17. malley November 25, 2014 Reply

    I’ve made this twice now. Once with red velvet cake mix and once with carrot cake mix. Both times it was awesome. I’m going to definitely try your original recipe.

  18. Ranee November 25, 2014 Reply

    Melissa its because this recipe says to use 2 boxes of cream cheese when really only 1 is needed mine turned out like a cake as well but went back and remade it using 1 box of cream cheese 8oz and not 160z

  19. Carolyn November 6, 2015 Reply

    Never had them with pecans, will be trying this recipe soon
    Thxs for sharing. Your site is awesome!

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