Chess Squares

“These bars are a favorite tailgate treat in the South, where they’re made with boxed yellow cake mix. Through the magic of baking, they transform into a bar cookie version of chess pie that is, for lack of a better description, the love child of a stick of butter and cream cheese—in cake form.” —Ben Mims

Chess Squares
Recipe from Sweet & Southern by Ben Mims (Rizzoli, 2014) Yield: Approximately 16 servings
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  1. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  3. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 1½ cups sugar
  5. ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  6. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  7. 4 large eggs, divided
  8. ¼ cup whole milk
  9. 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  10. 1 (1-pound) package confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13x9-inch baking dish with parchment paper, letting ends extend over edges of pan. Spray with nonstick baking spray with flour. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add 1 egg, beating until smooth. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture and milk. Beat just until dough comes together and is smooth. Transfer to prepared dish. Using your fingers, press dough evenly into bottom of dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add remaining 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low. Add confectioners’ sugar, beating until mostly smooth. Pour cream cheese mixture over dough, spreading evenly with a spatula.
  4. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and top is lightly browned, approximately 40 minutes. Let cool completely; cut into 16 squares.
Taste of the South


  1. The opening statement regarding the Chess Squares relates that these are made in the South with a boxed yellow cake mix, however there is no mention of one in the recipe. It seems to appear they are made from scratch. Scratch baking is, of course, wonderful and much preferred, but if there is a recipe using a cake mix I would like to have it in order to compare the finished product.


    • My recipe with a cake mix is…
      1 yellow cake mix
      1 cup melted butter
      1 8oz cream cheese
      3 eggs
      4 cups confectioners sugar

      Mix together cake mix,1 egg, and butter. Pour in a 8×8 or 9×13 pan that has been sprayed with Pam making sure to spread it thoroughly. Then mix together the other ingredients and pour on top of cake mixture. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes…

  2. I’m living in Paris France and have a hard time finding cake mixes (the only place to find them really is the American grocery store where they cost a fortune). I’ve made the cake mix version many times before we moved from the USA. So I’m delighted to have this recipe. Its in the oven now.

  3. So. I started making these & my mixer died in mid-mix. I got very frustrated, as I was rushing to get them in the oven as I needed them for a meeting this afternoon. So, when I finally figured out I could do this with my immersion blender, I forgot to add the flour, which I didn’t figure out till they were in the oven! THEN, I realized I left out the 1/4 cup of milk. I’m just going to let them bake as is. Who knows. Maybe there is a whole new world of “Flourless Chess Pie”. Though I doubt it.


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