Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (2024)

These easy Chess Squares are a simple and comforting Southern dessert! Flaky and buttery, this sweet treat goes perfectly with tea or coffee.

Chess Squares

When I was in New York a few weeks ago we stopped by one of the most unique bakeries I’ve ever visited, Momof*cku Milk Bar. Noted for their unusual concoctions like cookies made with potato chips, birthday cake truffles, and cereal milk ice cream, I’d been wanting to visit Momof*cku’s and try a slice of their famous Crack Pie since I came across the recipe in the LA Times last year.

The thought did cross my mind that I could actually, you know, make the recipe myself, but one thing kept stopping me. It’s decidedly fussy.

With 22 ingredients (including 8 egg yolks, ugh) and the advertised one-and-a-half hours of labor-intensive preparation, I just kept putting the whole thing off.

When I did finally get the chance to taste it two weeks ago, I immediately flashed back to my college days when my girlfriends and I would flounce around in the kitchen, throwing dinner parties for our boyfriends, and making sinfully sweet treats for church Bible studies. Crack Pie reminded me of one of my old standbys, Chess Squares, an unbelievably indulgent southern dessert staple and one of the first desserts I remember making on my own.

I proclaimed this revelation to my foodie friends (except I was really thinking that chess squares are so much better), but all I received were blank stares. They’d never heard of chess squares. Chalking it up to being a “southern thing”, I knew as soon as I got home I had to share this ridiculously delicious recipe with you guys.

The best part is, chess squares couldn’t be easier to make. Just five simple ingredients here.

If this is looking familiar to you, you’re doing better than I was at this point. More on that in a minute.

How to Make These Classic Chess Squares

You start by mixing a yellow cake mix with melted butter and one egg to form a soft dough .

It was at this point that I started to think myself, Huh. This seems a little familiar.

But I pushed the thought out of my head and carried on.

You then mix a pound of powdered sugar with softened cream cheese and the remaining two eggs to create a decadent gooey filling. No wonder they’re so good!

But… Haven’t I seen this recipe somewhere before… recently?

Oh right. That’s when it dawned on me. It’s almost the exact recipe for…

Gooey Butter Cake.


How did I not realize that my beloved chess squares were also masquerading under the famous Paula Deen recipe until… just now?

Doh. Again. I wrestled with myself whether or not I should even post the recipe, scolding myself that you’ve all surely heard of gooey butter cake.

But I ultimately decided that no matter what you call them, this delicious dessert definitely deserves a second look.

From its decadent, chewy crust…

To its rich, gooey filling…

And the flaky, sugary, satisfyingly crispy crust…

To the way it makes your whole house smell so divinely sweet and buttery.

If you’ve never made chess squares or gooey butter cake… Give these a try. You won’t be disappointed.


Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (16)

Chess Squares

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 27 reviews

  • Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (17) Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (18) Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (19) Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (20) Yield: About 12 squares 1x
  • Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (21) Category: Dessert
  • Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (22) Method: Oven
  • Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (23) Cuisine: American



These easy Chess Squares are a simple and comforting Southern dessert! Flaky and buttery, this sweet treat goes perfectly with tea or coffee.



  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 300 and spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix cake mix, melted butter and one egg to a soft dough. Press into the bottom of the pan.
  3. Mix powdered sugar, softened cream cheese and remaining two eggs until smooth, about 1-2 mins. Pour on top of crust.
  4. Bake at 300 for 40-50 minutes until top is golden brown.

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Chess Squares Recipe | Simple Southern Dessert Recipe (2024)


Why are they called chess squares? ›

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.

Where did chess cake come from? ›

While many assume cheesecake originated in New York, it dates back much much further! Over 4,000 years ago in the fifth century BC, the ancient Greeks on the island of Samos created the earliest known cheesecake.

What is Queen Elizabeth cake made of? ›

Queen Elizabeth cake is a lightly sweet, moist, and low-fat date cake, topped with a brown sugar, butter and broiled coconut mixture. "Queen Elizabeth cake" is named after the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II, and may have first been made in 1953 for her coronation.

Are chess pie and buttermilk pie the same? ›

Both pies are very similar but have a few distinct differences. Like a chess pie, buttermilk pie starts with the same main components of butter, sugar, and eggs. But instead of milk and lemon juice (or vinegar), it uses straight buttermilk to give it a tart lusciousness.

What does a chess pie taste like? ›

The sugar and the flour or cornstarch in the custard will caramelize in the oven, and the result is a pie with a top that's a delicious golden caramel color and slightly crunchy, like a giant crème brûlée. Underneath the crackly top is a custard that tastes like vanilla custard with a whisper of citrusy brightness.

What is another name for chess pie? ›

And so, supposedly, the name “Chess Pie” was coined. Chess pie and its many Southern variations — including vinegar pie, transparent pie and Tyler pie (a favorite of Edna Lewis's, putatively named for President John Tyler and perfected by the women of Miss Lewis's hometown of Freetown, Va.)

What is chocolate chess pie made of? ›

What is chocolate chess pie made of? It's just about one of the easiest chocolate pies you can make! The custardy filling is made with eggs, sugar, milk, butter, cornmeal, vanilla, and unsweetened chocolate.

Is chess made out of milk? ›

Chess pie is a dessert with a filling composed mainly of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and sometimes milk, characteristic of Southern United States cuisine.

What is chess flavor? ›

The Takeout likens the texture of chess pie to whipped honey, and the surface of it to crème brûlée. Because buttermilk or vinegar is sometimes added, there can also be an undercurrent of tartness. Many recipes also call for lemon juice, and the result is a texture and flavor that can resemble old-fashioned lemon bars.

What is the Three Kings cake made of? ›

Three Kings Cake (or bread), also known as Rosca de Reyes, is closely allied with the traditions around the Epiphany (January 6th). The tender, enriched dough is shaped like a wreath and filled with cinnamon, nuts, dried fruit, and citrus zest, evoking classic holiday aromas and flavors.

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