★★★★★

Gooey Lemon Cake Bars

Turn your favorite Gooey Butter Cake into a Lemon dessert! Gooey Lemon Cake Bars make everybody happy and no one has to know you started with a box of cake mix!

For more easy cake mix recipes, try our delicious lemon poke cake next. Or give our cake mix cookies a try for a unique treat.

Lemon cake bars cut into squares and dusted with powdered sugar.

Why this Recipe is Best

I based today’s lemon bars off of this easy Gooey Butter Cake recipe. By just changing it slightly they become a whole new dessert.

If you love lemon treats as much as I do you’re going to fall head over heels for these cake bars! They’re full of zesty lemon goodness, like sunshine in bar form. Sure to brighten your day!

  • This recipe starts with a cake mix for easy assembly.
  • The bars have a soft gooey topping, baked on a cake mix crust.
  • You can store them in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you’re loving lemon, be sure to try our delicious, from scratch, lemon cake recipe. Don’t forget to try the lemon frosting too.

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed to make gooey lemon cake bars.

Lemon Cake Mix- Start with a boxed mix for today’s easy recipe. Any brand will do.

Cream Cheese – Choose the “block” not the tub of cream cheese and use full fat cream cheese for best results. Don’t forget to let it soften at room temperature for a few minutes first.

Powdered Sugar – This is used to sweeten the gooey layer, and you’ll want to dust the finished dessert with more for a pretty presentation!

PRO TIP- We love making our own homemade vanilla extract, but if using store bought, be sure it’s pure extract, not imitation (for best flavor).

Step by step photos showing how to make lemon cake bars.

Easy Instructions

STEP 1. Make the crust. Combine the cake mix, butter and egg until well mixed. Press into the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish.

STEP 2. Make the filling. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs in a mixer and beat until fluffy. Pour over the crust.

STEP 3. Bake, cool and refrigerate. Bake the bars in a 325 degree oven for 40-45 minutes then let cool completely. For best flavor, refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.

Tips and Tricks

  • Make sure to let your butter and cream cheese come to room temperature. This is important!
  • When in doubt, underbake. My bars are ready to come out of the oven at about 40 minutes. Underbaking also helps show the definitive separation in layers.
  • Chill well. I know the cake smells so good when it comes out of the oven, you’ll be tempted to dig in right away. But cooling the bars and then chilling them for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator before serving helps them firm up to the right texture. I also LOVE the taste of these bars best when they’re cold.
  • Top with powdered sugar. These bars look best with a dusting of powdered sugar on top to add a sweet decorative touch!
Gooey lemon cake bars in a 13x9 glass dish cut into squares.

Recipe FAQs

Are powdered sugar and confectioner’s sugar the same?

Yes! It’s labeled as one or the other, depending on the brand. So if your box says “confectioner’s sugar” it can still be used in this recipe.

Can I make gooey lemon cake bars in advance?

Absolutely. Bake the bars the night before and keep them covered with foil or plastic wrap in the fridge overnight.

Can you freeze lemon cake bars?

Yes! After baking and cooling, slice the cake bars and place in an airtight, freezer safe container (or ziploc bag). When ready to enjoy, allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy.

More Lemon Recipes

Yield: 15 servings

Gooey Lemon Cake Bars

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Chill Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes

Turn your favorite Gooey Butter Cake into a Lemon dessert! Gooey Lemon Cake Bars make everybody happy and no one has to know you started with a box of cake mix!

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 box (15 ounce) Lemon Cake Mix
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 8 ounce cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, butter and egg. Press into the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish.
  2. Combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla eggs in a mixer. Beat until fluffy. Pour over crust.
  3. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 40-45 minutes (I underbake mine a little to get that definitive separation in layers). Remove from oven and cool completely.
  4. Refrigerate for 4 hours (or overnight) for best flavor. ENJOY.

Notes

  • When in doubt, underbake. My bars are ready to come out of the oven at about 40 minutes.
  • Chill well. I know the cake smells so good when it comes out of the oven, you'll be tempted to dig in right away. But chilling this for at least 4 hours before serving helps it firm up to the right texture. I also LOVE the taste of these bars best when they're cold.
  • Can this be made ahead of time? Absolutely. Bake them the night before and keep them covered with foil or plastic wrap in the fridge over night.
  • See blog post or more recipe tips and tricks.
  • Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    15

    Serving Size:

    1 slice

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 310Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 317mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 0gSugar: 30gProtein: 4g

    *Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.

    Did you make this recipe?

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    About Aimee

    Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

    Learn more about Aimee.

    Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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    Posted on March 22, 2018

    Comments & Reviews

    1. I made this today, and mine looks nothing like yours. I am so bummed. It’s such a simple recipe, I thought for sure it would be fail-proof. Sad day 🙁 Does it need to bake at a lower temperature? My edges were pretty brown, but my cake crust was dense and lost all it’s pretty yellow color. It tasted like cheesecake with a little lemon. I so wanted it to look and taste like yours 🙁 I made some strawberry sauce & topped it with that. It redeemed it a little. Just can’t seem to figure out where I went wrong.

      1. Amber, bummer! I make gooey cake bars all the time with this recipe, swapping out different cake mixes for the base flavor. I honestly don’t know what could have gone wrong?! Mine definitely has a lot of lemon flavor, and stayed quite yellow (clearly 🙂 The only things I can think of would be is to check your oven temperature? Although, I know with all your baking it’s bound to be close to accurate! Sorry I have no other help for you 🙁

      1. Hmmm, I make this all the time with no problems! I would say maybe double check your oven temperature. Make sure you beat the filling mixture until thick and fluffy before pouring over crust. Sorry it didn’t work out!!

    2. Mine did not turn out like picture at all!!! Crust was all brown…top was okay but certainly not as light and yummy looking as yours. I used the same cake mix…not a fan.

      1. It really has enough lemon flavor as is…but you can totally try adding the lemon extract if you prefer!

    3. Are you supposed to bake these bars with the cream cheese topping on them? Or do you put it on after? The instructions say to bake it with the topping but the picture looks like you put it on after baking.

    4. I love lemon, too. We just bought a baby lemon tree, and I’m really hoping we can keep it alive. How awesome would it be to just walk into your backyard and get a lemon? I’m definitely trying this recipe.

    5. Sounds delicious, but I think I will try using lemon juice instead of vanilla. What do you think?

      1. Lemon juice would be fine. Or extract. Or lemon zest! It totally is lemon-y enough without though!

    6. These look so good! I love the creamy top layer. I’ve made gooey butter cake with yellow cake mix but never thought to make it lemony!

    7. Pinned this before I even read the post, they look that good!! Who cares if it’s a cake mix, it’s lemon deliciousness!!

    8. YAY more lemon! Tis the season and cake bars are amazing! Especially when they are gooey and smothered in frosting!

    9. Love lemon desserts! These bars are amazing! Nothing wrong with taking shortcuts here and there!

    10. Oh these bars look heavenly Aimee! Anything with lemon is just perfection in my book 🙂

    11. I’ve got that same lemon love affair! Love this simple recipe and of course, love your presentation and photos!

    12. I could eat an entire plate of these! They look so ooey gooey and lovelyyyy 😀

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