These Easy Lemon Squares are a citrusy twist on the classic recipe for gooey butter cake.
I have lots of really cool parts of my job, but some of the most fun things come from my partnership with the Alabama Farmers Federation. In addition to getting to come right into your living rooms every week by way of Simply Southern TV, I also get to write a monthly column for the Federation’s Neighbors magazine.
Each month I get to share some delicious recipes from Southern Bite and for the past two years, I’ve also been featuring recipes from some of the amazing Alabama farmers that help to clothe and feed us. Now, the Federation has given me permission to share those recipes with y’all!
This recipe for Easy Lemon Squares is one of those recipes and it comes to us from Denise Henry.
Denise and her late husband, Mike, raised five kids on their family cattle farm in south Montgomery County. While regionally famous for their beef dishes, this sweet treat hits the spot, too.
If you love the classic Gooey Butter Cake, you’re going to love the citrusy twist in these bars. The crust is made with a lemon cake mix and the gooey filling combines cream cheese, powdered sugar, and eggs.
This recipe is quick and easy to assemble and can easily be adapted using other flavors of cake mix. I’m thinking a chocolate version would be amazing!
Should I use a metal pan or glass baking dish?
I’ve been cooking for more than 30 years and have been working on Southern Bite for more than 13 of those. And though I feel pretty confident in my culinary capabilities, the idiosyncrasies of using a glass versus metal vessel for baking has mostly escaped me for that time.
Needing several batches of Pecan Chewies for an event a while back, I baked one in a metal pan and another in a glass dish. What I noticed is that the chewies in the metal pan cooked more evenly, browned beautifully, and had nice clean, straight edges. The ones in the glass dish rolled over on themselves around the edges resulting in less-than-attractive tops.
A quick Google search proved that the world knew this and just left me out. But when you think about it, it just makes sense…
Metal pans heat up and cool more quickly since metal is a good conductor of heat. This means more evenly baked goods.
Glass pans retain heat better, which makes them great for keeping things like casseroles warm after taking them out of the oven. This can result in overcooked baked goods, too, though as the retained heat can cause things to continue baking even after being taken out of the heat.
So what does all this mean?
Well, it means for things like cakes, brownies, bars, and cookies I now recommend using a metal baking pan. But not just any metal baking pan. I recommend the use of a light colored aluminum pan. Dark colored pans can cause the outside of baked goods to get too hot and too dark, like with this Strawberry Bread I showed y’all a few years back.
For things like casseroles, pasta bakes, etc, I recommend using glass baking dishes.
Just keep in mind that you don’t want to use acidic things in metal pans as the acid will react with the metal. Fruit cobblers, crumbles, and other acidic ingredients should always be baked in glass or ceramic.
A few tips for recipe success…
Start with room temperature ingredients. They will blend more easily and more thoroughly.
Beating the cream cheese first makes it smooth and will make adding the other ingredients much easier.
Use a light-colored aluminum baking pan for the best results. See the blog post above for more info.
If you find the crust difficult to get pressed into the pan, spritz a silicone spatula or your fingers with a little nonstick cooking to make the process easier.
Easy Lemon Squares
For the crust:
- 1 (15.25-ounce) box lemon cake mix
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg, room temperature
For the filling:
- 1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened
- 1 (1-pound) package powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
For the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray a 9×13-inch light colored metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Use a mixer to combine the cake mix, softened butter, and egg together. Mix until just combined. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
For the filling:
- Reserve about 1/3 cup of the powdered sugar and set aside for the topping.
- Use a mixer to beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and eggs and beat until combined. Pour the mixture over the crust.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the edges are just lightly brown, but the center is still jiggly. Cool completely then cut into squares and dust with reserved powdered sugar.
Now Stacey Love… I absolutely LOVE all of your recipes angel… I had to go back up and read this recipe three times … Lemon Bars… with out one single drop of lemon juice…. and ounce of lemon zest….. now that just simply does not seem right love…
Hey, Tonya! So, this isn’t my recipe, but a recipe from a hardworking Alabama farm family. With that being said, I found the lemon cake mix gives it lots of great lemon flavor in testing. Though, you could certainly add some lemon juice or zest, if you see fit.
I have always loved lemon squares. This recipe makes them even easier to make, and does not sacrifice ANY of the great taste. Thank you Stacey.
You’re so welcome, Pam! Enjoy!
THANKs Stacey for this recipe I love lemon bars. I will be making them for Sunday dinner.
You’re so welcome! Hope y’all enjoy!
I meant can I use a glass 9×13 Pan.
Can I use glass 9×13 pan instead of a metal pan? Love your site!
Hi, Rose! Yes, you can use a glass dish, but the results will be a bit different. Be sure to scroll back up and read the blog posts. I’ve put tons of great info in there about choosing metal over glass for this recipe.
There’s no lemon juice in the recipe. How can these be Lemon Bars?
I agree, although the recipe is easy & delicious. The only lemon flavor is from the lemon cake mix crust. My family prefers more of a tart lemon bar. I would add a bit of lemon juice, lemon extract, or both to the filling & maybe even a touch lemon zest to the crust mixture. 🍋🍋😋🍋🍋
Let us know how it turns out!
The lemon cake mix gives this recipe lots of lemon flavor.
I lost this recipe long time ago and when I saw yours my mouth started watering something terrific!! I am a lemon person….hubby is not! I look forward to making these !
and eating til my heart’s desire…thx for all your fantastic recipes! Yours are the best ever!!!
Ha! Thanks so much, Cricket!
Can you add lemon zest ?
I’m sure I missed this, but should we use a 9×13 or 8×8? I think I’m fixing these for church this sunday. One of my grandbabies is crazy for lemony sweets.
Hey there! It’s a 9×13-inch baking pan. Hope your grandbaby enjoys it!
Thank you, sir! I have 11 grands and 9 great grands so sweets generally don’t last long ! I sure appreciate the prompt response.
Happy to help!