Chess Squares

Classic Southern chess squares - a pecan filled yellow cake bottom that has a delicious cream cheese topping and slices into perfect squares!

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Chess Squares are an easy and amazing dessert. Creamy, crunchy, and smooth, they are some of the best things to come out of the South recipe-wise!

For a classic pie version of this recipe, why not make a Chess Pie or a Chocolate Chess Pie?

Chess Squares on a white platter

Chess Squares

The exact origin of these tasty squares is pretty difficult to ascertain, but despite its confusion, they are still super good.

This recipe uses a yellow cake mix package as the base for the squares themselves, which is actually the easiest way to get a really consistent, super good cake texture.

The addition of some sweetened cream cheese icing that gets baked along with the rest of the squares makes for a truly unique texture that needs to be tried to be believed.

ingredients for chess sqaures

Chess Squares Ingredients

Make sure you look at the recipe card at the very bottom for the exact amounts so that you know exactly what to buy for this recipe.


• Yellow cake mix package

• Melted butter

• Egg

• Chopped pecans


• Cream cheese package

• Icing sugar

How To Make Chess Squares

• Spray or grease a 9×13 inch pan

• Melt butter in the microwave and then combine with the cake mix and egg

• Add the chopped pecans

• Pour into the prepared pan and set aside

• In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and the confectioner’s sugar until well combined

• Add in the eggs one at a time, and then beat until well combined

• Pour cream cheese mixture over the crust

• Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean

• Cool, slice, and then serve  

chess squares on a wire baking rack

Why Use A Pre-Packaged Cake Mix?

A lot of people might be a bit critical of the idea of using a box mix of cake in this recipe or any other baking recipe.

Detractors might say that using a pre-made cake mix is somehow cheating and that a real baker only uses homemade cake.

However, why does everything have to be homemade? Cake mixes aren’t just a simple and cheap option for making stuff at home; they can actually be the best.

A big reason for this is because of the fact that the makers of cake mixes don’t just throw together random ingredients; they’re smart people! They know what they are doing.

While homemade cakes can sometimes be a bit tricky to get perfect, the same isn’t true of box mixes. They are perfectly formulated to raise the same and taste the same every single time!

So don’t feel bad about using box mixes; everyone does it, and honestly, they are usually the better choice anyway.

chess squares in a stack

Why Are They Called Chess Squares?

The name of “chess square” seems to imply that this square has something to do with the game of chess, right?

Well, the etymology of these squares isn’t as clear-cut, unfortunately. There have been all kinds of suggestions about what on earth this name means, but the best one, and maybe the coolest, is simply to do with accents.

Let’s face it; this is a pretty simple recipe. It’s made from cake mix, eggs, butter, and some cream cheese frosting, so it isn’t that complicated.

When pressed as to what this delicious yet simple concoction is called, a common reply would be that it is “just pie.”

Say that it a rural Southern US accent, and you end up with “jus’ pie.” And thus, we get “chess pie.”

Pretty cool, huh?

Looking for more delicious Pie recipes? Try these out:

Peach Crumble Recipe

How to Blind Bake a Pie Crust

Campfire Cherry Hand Pies




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Classic Southern chess squares - a pecan filled yellow cake bottom that has a delicious cream cheese topping and slices into perfect squares!

Chess Squares

Classic Southern chess squares – a pecan filled yellow cake bottom that has a delicious cream cheese topping and slices into perfect squares!
5 from 6 votes
Karlynn Johnston



  • 1 package package yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese
  • 2 cups icing sugar confectioners sugar
  • 2 large eggs


  • Preheat oven to 350 °F. Spray or grease a 9×13" pan. Melt butter in the microwave and then combine with the cake mix and egg. Add chopped pecans. Pour into prepared 9×13" pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and the confectioners’ sugar until well combined. Add in eggs one at a time and beat until combined.
  • Pour cream cheese mixture over crust. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Cool, then slice and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • Store these in a closed container in the fridge, but they are best eaten the day of as the cake hardens.
  • You can freeze these in a closed container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 362kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 374mg, Potassium: 64mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 31g, Vitamin A: 437IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 87mg, Iron: 1mg

All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

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