I’m so excited to share this recipe for Gooey Butter Bars Without Cake Mix with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe these creamy, sweet, buttery little bars go by a few names (Chess Pie Squares, Neiman Marcus Bars), depending on the region you are from. What I love about this particular recipe is that it is entirely from scratch, without the use of a boxed yellow cake mix. Even so, they are still very easy to make, just without the artificial butter flavoring. REAL butter always wins in my book.
It comes as no surprise to me that the last three recipes I’ve posted have the word BUTTER in the title. See Kentucky Butter Cake and Butter Pecan Chicken… My lovely little kitchen actually is quite buttery, so this is very appropriate. I feel a tiny bit panicked when my butter supply gets down to only one or two bars left!
I tried to take a picture of these beauties up close and personal so that you could see that there are three distinct layers. The bottom layer thick soft cake that gradually melts into the middle layer, which is sweet, creamy, and almost custard-like. On the very top, there is a very thin, golden brown crisp meringue layer that is very similar to the crackly layer that forms on top of a good brownie recipe.
The powdered sugar dusting is optional, and
You can also freeze them – in fact, I highly recommend it. They cut into tidy little squares when they are well chilled, and I prefer eating them straight out of the freezer. Around midnight. When no one is looking.
I’m so glad I have friends like you to share my buttery recipes with. Thanks for being as excited about them as I am.
This Gooey Butter Bar recipe is pure gold! Go make them and please do think of me when you are magically drawn to sneak a bite from your freezer stash around midnight.
Did you make this recipe?
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #lovelylittlekitchen
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Gooey Butter Bars (Without Cake Mix)
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 24 bars 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
These Gooey Butter Bars quickly come together without a boxed cake mix. They are a butter and sugar lover’s dream come true!
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 4 eggs, divided
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 16 ounces powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 by 13 inch baking pan by spraying with nonstick baking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat sugar, butter, vanilla and almond extract and one egg together on medium high speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, and gradually add in the flour mixture, until just combined and a soft dough is formed. Press the dough into the bottom of the baking dish.
- Wash out the mixing bowl, and then add cream cheese. Beat on medium high speed, adding the remaining three eggs one at a time, mixing well in between. Turn the mixing speed to low, and slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth.
- Pour the cream cheese mixture over the dough, spreading it to the edges evenly.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes on the center rack of the oven, or until the top is golden brown.
- Cool completely at room temperature, or freeze until well chilled. Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan and then cut into 24 squares. I prefer to eat these cold, but they are delicious at room temperature as well.
*This recipe is adapted from this recipe for Chess Pie Squares.
- Serving Size: 1 Bar
- Calories: 209
- Sugar: 23g
- Sodium: 116mg
- Fat: 8.1g
- Saturated Fat: 4.7g
- Unsaturated Fat: 2.7g
- Trans Fat: 0.2g
- Carbohydrates: 32g
- Fiber: 0.3g
- Protein: 2.8g
- Cholesterol: 51mg
Keywords: gooey butter bars, butter, sugar, dessert bars
Cindy McLachlan says
You have baking powder listed in the ingredients and baking soda in step 2. I’ve made this with the baking powder. Fingers crossed that I chose the right one.
Thank you so much for catching that error, Cindy. You guessed correctly, it should read baking powder in both places. I hope you enjoy!
Oh no! I made it with the sugar!!
Can’t wait to try this!! Looks amazing!
Rose Mary George says
This looks delicious!
Carolyn Davis says
Hi, I looked at the recipe and the recipe for the Chess Squares. Why is there such a big difference in the amount of sugar in the base? only 1/2 cup for this recipe but 1 1/2 cups in chess squares?
Hi Carolyn, thanks for your question. I see what you are pointing out – but I’m pretty confident that this is the right ratio, especially looking at the amount of butter and flour in the base. I don’t generally follow inspiration recipes completely so it wouldn’t be unusual to make a change to the base. I looked through my box of recipe notes from when I tested the recipe and couldn’t find any on this particular recipe. Just to be sure, I will remake these as I have written the recipe and make sure it’s correct. I’ll be sure to get back to you on this one!
I remade these today and found them to be plenty sweet with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in the base as written. The cream cheese and egg mixture that goes on top does have a pound of powdered sugar in it, so I feel like the base being less sweet balances that out.
Janet V Ross says
thank you so much for your post. I was wondering if it was a pound of powdered sugar or 2 cups
Jennine Quiring says
I am so glad I found this site. I get so frustrated seeing the name of a recipe and look it up only to find that a cake mix is called for. So nice to find this type of recipe from scratch. I am not a snob about baking from scratch and will bake with a mix if I need to bake something for my daughter to take to her game night. The reason I like to find “ from scratch” recipe is is that is what is required at the CA state fair competition. I have been entering for over 25 years. I got a late start because I am 83. I will let you know if I get a blue ribbon in July !
I feel like a total idiot. The eggs being divided is using only the yolk? Or was it indicating that the eggs will be used in separate sections?
I made the recipe and it did not work out well😔
I’m sorry this recipe didn’t work out for you! The eggs are added at two different points in the recipe, one in the crust, and three in the cream cheese on top. If the eggs need to be separated in a recipe, it will usually just call for 3 egg yolks, etc.
Elizabeth H Krupkin says
Have you ever made these using dairy-free substitutions? They look so good but I’m wondering if they’ll turn out with the df ingredients I have?
Thanks very much,
Myla Maguire says
I had a lot of fun making this recipe, and really enjoyed eating it!!! I had bought these at the store once to try them , and they were sold out so I decided to make some!!! They taste fantastic and It is perfectly sweet and buttery and melts in your mouth!!!!
Thank you so much, Myla!
Will this recipe work with 2% milk instead of whole milk?
Where do you see milk in this recipe?
Sorry this is confusing…. I have revised this recipe since first posting it. The original version had a small amount of milk to thin the batter.
Kelsea Inman says
I was wondering what was missing and the cake part came out very dry. How much milk was in the original recipe?
I made these bars exactly as stated in the recipe, with no almond extract, and they turned out wonderful. My family loved them, and multiple guests who came by over the next few days were also blown away! I think the key is to not over bake them. In a 350 degree oven mine were baked up in under 35 minutes, I will be checking them at 30 minutes from now on!
Thanks for the feedback, Melly! I’m so glad everyone liked them.
Thanks for mentioning this Melly! My oven runs hotter than most recipes it seems, so ill make sure to check it early!
Laura Barrett says
Hi could I divide this into (2) 8 x 8 square pans? Also not use the parchment paper if I use the aluminum throw away/give away pans? Thanks! Been looking for a recipe that doesn’t use a cake “mix”
Hi Laura, it should be fine to divide and bake in aluminum pans, just be sure not to over bake them. I would start checking to see if they are done around 30 minutes. Hope you enjoy!
Anjelica Blum says
These were amazing! I just made them a second time, however I used half as much flour in the crust the second time around and found them to be much better that way.
That’s interesting… I may need to retest this and see if less flour would be better. Thanks for letting me know!
Laura Barrett says
HI I wanted to know if you can use 1 % milk, instead of whole? I don’t have salted butter, so do I put some salt in it? If so, amount please! I’m going to try this in (2) 8 x 8 aluminum pans, I’ll watch the time. Did you try the recipe with less flour as stated above? Just curious on that one Thanks!
Hi Laura, your comment reminded me that I’d been wanting to retest this recipe, so I made two different batches today. Here’s what worked the best… I decreased the flour to 1 1/2 cups, and left out the milk altogether. I decided it was much easier to pat the dough into the bottom of the pan without the parchment paper liner. Spraying with nonstick spray is enough to keep it from sticking. I also decreased the baking time to 30-35 minutes. 33 minutes was perfect with a glass baking dish. I know it will be less time with two 8 by 8 pans. I hope this is helpful for you. Thank you so much for your question.
You can definitely use unsalted butter, just increase the salt from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon.
Instructions are incomplete. You say to spray the pan with non stick spray and then all the way at the end say to use parchment to lift out cake, but you never said to line the pan with parchment, just spray. Really hope I can actually get these out of the pan they are in the oven now.
Tricia Jones says
Exactly the recipe I was looking for!
And when I read, “They cut into tidy little squares when they are well chilled, and I prefer eating them straight out of the freezer. Around midnight. When no one is looking” I knew , that if we were ever to meet in person, we’d be fast friends 😉
Made these yesterday and they are so delicious. I had something similar from a local Nashville restaurant about 6 months ago and have been looking to replicate it at home. This recipe is really close to those ones and now I’m addicted again! Thanks for sharing.
So glad you like them, Jane!