Make your Mouth Happy

This recipe is over the top delicious. This treat goes by many names, including “gooey butter cake” and “chess squares.” A rose chess square by any other name would taste as sweet.

I realized something strange the first time I made these for my roommates. No one had ever heard of this delicious dessert. Of all of my roommates, I definitely live the farthest south. From that day forward, I made it my personal goal to introduce my roommates to the best food the South has to offer. Chess squares seemed like the absolutely perfect place to start.

People unfamiliar with this southern delicacy often demand I explain this bland-looking dessert. I’ve come up with the best description I can think of: “a vanilla cake base with the consistency of a sugar cookie topped with a cheesecake filling that forms a delicious sugary crunchy crust when baked.” Blank stares normally ensure, and I’m sure people think I’m simply formulating the best possible combination of any desserts known to man in order to get people to try my baking. They reluctantly take a bite and the reaction is always the same. Mmmmm’s followed by silent chewing followed by a request for another square. In all honestly, I have yet to meet anyone who does not like these bars. They are impossible to dislike.

This recipe comes from the queen of all things delicious and Southern – Paula Deen. If you have ever seen her show, looked at any of her recipes, or know anything about the woman, you know that she loves all things fattening, especially butter. With two sticks of butter and an entire box of powdered sugar, I cannot lie and tell you this is a healthy dessert that will make you look super hot in your bikini. To be honest, your bikini may hate you. But your mouth will love you so so much. And everything’s good in moderation – including (especially) chess squares – right?!

So go find a reason to celebrate. Birthday? Anniversary? An entire day without saying anything sassy? Really, make up whatever excuse you need to make these delicious bars. I am positive that your mouth will be so happy you did. (And really, who cares about making that bikini happy anyways?)

Chess Squares

Source: Paula Deen


1 box yellow cake mix

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 16 ounce box of powdered sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13×9 glass dish with non-stick spray.

2. Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer, combine cake mix, 1 stick of unsalted butter, and 1 egg on low speed. This will be the consistency of cookie dough. (One roommate referred to it as “play doh”…not very appetizing, but a good description) Using a rubber spatula, press this mixture into the prepared dish.

3. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese on medium speed until it is smooth, about 1 minute. Add 2 eggs, 1 stick of unsalted butter, and vanilla extract. Mix until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.

4. Add half of the box of powdered sugar, mix on low speed until all of the sugar is incorporated. Add remaining powdered sugar and mix. Remember to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium speed for about a minute until the mixture is light and fluffy.

5. Pour this mixture on to the cake base layer. Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes. The cake is finished when the top is a light brown color and the crust has cracked. Cool, slice, and enjoy!

Happy Baking!


36 thoughts on “Make your Mouth Happy

    • Hi Kealy – thanks for your comment! I’m sure there are many variations of the dessert! This is actually from Paula Deen’s recipe for Gooey Butter Cake. I’ve linked it above if you’d like to see the original!

    • I agree…being from the St. Louis area, I can tell you this is not our beloved Gooey Butter Cake. I have tried the cake mix/cream cheese versions just to see what they were like and while they are tasty, they are not the same as the original yeast dough variety. 🙂

  1. I wish I could find this recipe made without cake mix! So far, Google has failed me. I’ll eat a lot of weird things, but I don’t care for boxed mix baked goods.

    • Hi JK.. I make all my cakes from scratch.. why don’t you do a yellow cake recipe— with the ‘dry ingredients’ only- then add the egg/butter amounts listed in this recipe by wishaway.. I don’t know if it would be the same thing- but it’s always great to experiment… and if it works – then you can let us know! Cheers, Leesa.

    • I have a similar recipe using a pound cake boxed mix. I was dying to make this one day and didn’t have a box cake, so I made a pound cake by scratch – it really didn’t turn out as good – of course, it still tasted good, but it “puffed” up too much. A box cake really does work best.

  2. Google the measurment conversions. I’m not sure what measurements are specifically used in Australia, so I cannot look it up for you, but i’m sure you could find it!

  3. The “print” function prints the entire article, 11 pages, including full page color pictures. Huge waste of ink and paper. But the recipe is superb!

  4. I made these for a bridal shower using a mini cupcake tin (no papers). I used a small cookie scoop. Some work, but ooh so good and really cute with strawberries mixed in on the plate. The perfect bite!

  5. Haven’t tried this yet but looks/sounds great! (I never leave comments this is a first) Thank you so kindly for sharing ( :

  6. I made this a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t sure about it the first time I tasted it. But then I had another piece the next day, and it was better, and even better the day after that. I just had the last piece today, and I have to say now that I think it’s addictive! If you look in the encyclopedia under “wicked good,” there is probably a picture of these Chess Bars. Thank you!

  7. I’d be surprised if they didn’t freeze well. But, not having done so yet, I suggest making a test batch, freezing it, and finding out for sure before you commit yourself on a large scale. Please post if you do find out. I’d like to know for future reference.

  8. Can I use a Pillsbury Supreme yellow cake mix? It says it is very moist and has a cup of pudding in the mix! Just wondering if that will make it too gooey. Thanks!

    • Yes, Mama always kept these in the fridge in her Tupperware containers after they were cool and cut up in bars, since they had eggs and cream cheese in them. Mama made these all the time for us and for potlucks at church and school, at least as far back as the fifties. Here in Kentucky grew up knowing them as ‘chess bars’. Guess it just depended on the region , we didn’t care, just knew they were good!

  9. I have been making Gooey butter bars since the 60’s and these aren’t it,but they are close. These my dears are Chess bars. I have the original recipe without using a cake mix and for everyone’s information this recipe isn’t it! Plus you use sweetened condensed milk in the recipe i have. I also have one for Hello Dollies, if anyone remembers those?! These are good but the old saying goes just because a cat has kittens in a stove don’t make them biscuits!!

    • Please list your recipe Christina Collins …I worked in a bakery 30+ years ago and we made the old fashion “original” chess bars with no cake mix as well but I can’t find a recipe…I would love to have one 😀

    • It is Three years later….well, if we all made negative comments on every different version of a recipe……..just saying.

  10. Does it even matter if they are called gooey or chess? I’m 38 and my mom made these all my life, they were called ooey gooey bars, but who cares….lol they are delicious. Chess, cheese, gooey….who cares if it’s called something different by each person that’s eat them. I always use butter cake instead of yellow and what’s so wonderful about this recipe is you can use any cake mix. I’ve used chocolate, strawberry and lemon. They are all awesome. Cheers 🙂

  11. I have made this many times over the years and I cannot get mine to crisp and crack on the top, any ideas on what it could be?

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