Lemon Chess Bars

This is the first recipe I ever asked for. I was 12. I was at a Christmas party at my great aunt’s house. I remember being stopped in my tracks at the wonder of what I had just put in my mouth. It tasted like heaven. Creamy, buttery, gooey, with a delicate, crisp top. And an angelic, light dusting of powdered sugar.

She wrote the recipe down for me on a sheet of notebook paper. She called it Neiman Marcus Cake. I made it, following the directions exactly. It was not the same. I tried the recipe several times over a few months, thinking I was missing something. Maybe I didn’t beat the cream cheese correctly? Maybe forgot the egg? Years later, after overhearing some fellow mislead family members, I learned she was that recipe person. That sadistic creature that will give recipes to poor souls and leave out an ingredient so no one else can make the hailed dish quite like them.


So, a few years passed and the foodie world fell in a deep, buttery coated love with Mrs. Paula Deen. I found a recipe in one of her cookbooks that seemed very similar to my “great” aunt’s Neiman Marcus Cake. Paula called it Gooey Butter Cake. It called for 2 sticks of butter and was wonderful. It was close, very very close, but not quite it either.

Then several months ago I was reading through some recipes on Picky Palate. She throws some twists on the Gooey Butter Cake and one of them called for a can of sweetened condensed milk. I felt like I may have finally figured out the holy-grail-left-out-secret-ingredient. I pulled out that cursed, worn notebook paper, Neiman Marcus Cake recipe and followed it exactly -one last time- except added the can of sweetened condensed milk.


This. Was. It.

Prepare to have your mind blown. Here is the recipe.

The unabridged recipe.

24 years later…


Lemon Chess Bars


bottom layer:

1 stick melted butter

1 egg

1 butter flavored cake mix

top layer:

1 stick melted butter

1 pkg cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup lemon juice

powdered sugar (for dusting)

Mix the ingredients for bottom layer and press into an 9 x 9 baking dish.

Mix the ingredients (except powdered sugar) for top layer and pour over the bottom layer. Use the same bowl (no need to wash out, this recipe is not finicky.)

Bake in 350 oven for about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool. And dust with powdered sugar. Yum!

*Oh, Hello again! I almost forgot. The Picky Palate gal makes her sweetened condensed milk a layer of it’s own. It seems like it would make almost a molten cake effect. A slightly runny layer. If you want to try that (I do!!), you would:

mix the bottom layer, press it into pan.

mix just the sweetened condensded milk and lemon juice and pour onto bottom layer.

mix the butter, eggs, cream cheese and 1 box of powdered sugar and pour over the top.

then bake as directed and dust with powdered sugar.


One Response to “Lemon Chess Bars”

  1. Tonya Says:

    LOL! Faye, those are colored

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