In the South, you will see home-baked chess squares at the farmer's markets and in bakeries, and the squares are always a popular choice to make for office parties and get-togethers. 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. Make them with a butter cake mix, or a basic white or yellow 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. See the variations below the recipe for chocolate, Key lime, and lemon options.
Serve the yummy chess bars as a dessert or snack for any occasion.
- Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C/Gas 4).
- Grease and flour a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat one large egg.
- 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 egg mixture and the crumbs begin to clump together. Pat the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
- 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.
- Pour the cream cheese batter over the first layer and spread to cover evenly.
- Bake the chess squares for 35 to 40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned.
- Cook on a rack and then cover the pan transfer to the refrigerator to chill thoroughly before cutting. They are a little gooier if you cut them while they are still warm, but feel free!
- Makes about 24 2-inch bars.
- Store the bars in the refrigerator.
*1 pound of confectioners' sugar will measure about 4 level cups, unsifted.
- 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.