Jan 27

Nanaimo Bars: The Daring Bakers Go to Canada

in Canadian, Chocolate, Daring Bakers, Dessert, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type

Nanaimo (pronounced Nah-nye-Moh) is a city in British Columbia, Canada.  It is also the name of a Canadian dessert—a 3-layer confection, which I had never tried until yesterday.  Thanks to Lauren of Celiac Teen, I finally made them just in time for the 2010 olympics in Vancouver!

Squirrel goes in for the kill...

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.  An optional part of the challenge was to make the bars gluten-free, but since I procrastinated slightly (ahem!) I had to make them with what I had already in the pantry.

The 1st layer of Nanaimo bars is a mixture of chocolate, graham crackers (we had to make our own!), coconut, and almonds.

Nanaimo Bars 1st Layer

The 2nd layer is a thick buttery custard layer.

Nanaimo Bars 2nd Layer

The final layer is a semisweet chocolate layer.

Spreading on the 3rd layer of the Nanaimo Bars

I doubled the recipe so that we would have extra to share and also so that I could freeze some (they freeze well!) to serve for the opening ceremonies of the olympics.  I would recommend cutting the bars into small pieces because they are very rich.  Bug taste tested these for me and gave them two thumbs up.  She would like me to mention that now that she is one she has a very refined palate.

Bug Likes Nanaimo Bars

The chocolatey/nutty/coconuty flavors mixed with the creamy buttery center are pretty divine.  These are dangerous for me to have around.  If you live near me, please come take some off my hands.

Nanaimo Bars

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Nanaimo Bars

Adapted from the City of Nanaimo Recipe

Makes one 8×8-inch pan

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) granulated sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) almonds (any type, finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) coconut (shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) heavy cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) vanilla custard powder (such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) confectioner’s sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) unsalted butter

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.


* These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica J. January 27, 2010 at 1:45 pm

oh my gosh! These look so good!


SarahD January 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Hail to the Great White North! Looks like a great recipe (pretty close to all the “authentic” ones I’ve seen––since, being such a Canadian tradition, there are many)! How I wished we lived closer! YUM!


Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle January 27, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Leave it to you to find a Canadian treat with an Asian (well, to my mind at least) sound to it. Sound delish…and look pretty easy to make so adding this to my menu for Girls Nite Out this Friday. I LOVE TWITTER! I need a recipe and your post shows up..very timely and thank you!


Kaye Prince January 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Hehehe, I am Canadian and I must say that Nanaimo bars are a definite favourite in my family (although I will not lie, I’m not really a huge fan)! Hmmm, maybe I should whip up a batch for my friends and family for the Olympics!


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction January 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Yum! Yours look great. Looks like the kiddos enjoyed them, too. :)


[email protected]'s Recipes January 27, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Wow, the bars are dangerous enough, yet taste heavenly! Super yummy!
I can tell it from the pictures, esp. the kids’ expressions. ^0^
Can I have a small piece?


Sarah, Maison Cupcake January 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Mmm these look good. Your custard layer is thicker than mine. Looks like the kids like them!


Fuji Nana January 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Oh my goodness these look good. I’m on my way over right now.


Denise @ There's a Newf in My Soup! January 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Adorable photos of Squirrel and Bug! Also love your idea of freezing these to enjoy for the Opening Ceremonies. Notice you’re on the list for Camp Blog-Away and look forward to meeting you there.


[email protected] January 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Well I am a third Canadian and I heart Nanaimo Bars about as much as I love macarons and lamingtons. You did a great job Rachael – and BUG! SQUIRREL!! Adorable!


Laura January 27, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Nice looking nanaimos (but your kids are just too cute!)


Lyndsey January 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

My, they do look rich….and good. Again, great pics! I would love just a bite please!


Nina January 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Wow…looks sinful.Great pics too:)Very well done!!!!


Jenni January 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Great job! Your bars look fantastic! And your photos are so cute!


Eileen Sanborn January 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Well Rachael – I know my nanaimo bars well (My parents were born and raised in Canada and my favorite aunts lived in Vancouver and Victoria) and I am giving you an A+, along with ten points of extra credit, for a batch of the finest bars I’ve seen in a long time. I know they tasted perfect because they look perfect! Thanks for “makin’ my day!” Eileen


Denise January 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm

We made these once, on a whim for Canada Day. I don’t know if the recipe we used was exactly the same as yours, but they were yummy. I’m glad you reminded me about the Olympics, it will be a good excuse to make them again!


Winnie January 27, 2010 at 7:57 pm

You did a beautiful job and your kids are too cute!


QSOgirl January 27, 2010 at 8:42 pm

ohhhh yummmmmmmm. a friend of ours makes these, and we have been blessed to be on the receiving end several times. mmmmmmmmmmm.


saucy smith January 27, 2010 at 9:05 pm

This post is amazing!! The photos, your writing, the detail,the recipe…. Thank you so much. Of course I will be baking these…PRONTO!
Hope you are having a great start to 2010


Darina January 27, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Wow, being that I’m from BC I can say that those Nanaimo bars are the best I’ve seen around for a long, long time. I never make them myself because they’re all over the place. Good job, Rachael.


Fuji Papa January 27, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Fresh from a taste, they are definitely thumbs up! Bring on the Olympics.


Meeta January 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm

while the bars were nice i preferred the graham crackers – i doubled the recipe there! adorable kids!


Sarah January 28, 2010 at 2:25 am

mmmm! Nanaimo bars are a Christmas favorite in my family. I’ve never been a coconut fan, however, so really should try making a batch myself and substituting for the coconut. Mmmm…


Juls @ Juls' Kitchen January 28, 2010 at 3:45 am

OH MY GOD! I must confess that your post forced me to join the Daring Kitchen!
Your result is fantastic, as well as your pics, not to talk about your wonderful daughters!!


Fearless Kitchen January 28, 2010 at 6:14 am

I’d never heard of nanaimo bars until this edition of Daring Bakers… they look interesting, to say the least! They look very kid-friendly, too!


Lauren January 28, 2010 at 7:49 am

You did beautifully on my challenge! I love love love the photos, especially of your little bug and squirrel =D. So glad they enjoyed them, especially with those refined palates ;D.


chrisjones January 28, 2010 at 9:13 am

These bar cookies are my favorite weakness ever! A little deli in Billings makes them and I have been visiting them regularly for years just to buy one. Now I’m going to have to buy some elastic waist pants cause I can MAKE MY OWN STASH! Thanks (I think)! A. Chris


Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries January 28, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Such cute pictures with your kids–You can tell they are loving those bars. :)


kate January 28, 2010 at 7:44 pm

wow, look at that, I’m already drooling, great color, looks delicious


[email protected] in Iowa January 29, 2010 at 7:16 am

Such cute pictures!! Great job Rachael!!


sugar plum January 31, 2010 at 10:17 pm

hULLO RACHAEL….sugar plum here and today am here with joy in my heart n a smile on my lips….u sure have a beautiful v precious background and a fantastic blog….
infact am so so thrilled to have to as my inpiration and mentor for 3 months…..delightfully excited…yeah have been adopted by u at dine and dish and am taking a good stroll all over ur world….
And am i love with the adorable cute ,very precious squirrel….shes a doll…..
And the pics here are fantastic…..


sugar plum January 31, 2010 at 10:22 pm



teresa cooks February 2, 2010 at 5:48 am

well I’ve been seeing these all over the web this week, but for some reason yours really made me want to eat them. I love the pics of your little beauties eating them, priceless!


Chaya February 2, 2010 at 8:15 am

Your kids outshine nanaimo bars and they look plenty good. Enjoy.


Jen September 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Great pics! I looove nanaimo bars!
I am looking for a no nut alternative to the coconut. I know it won’t be quite the same but I want to make some to bring to my son at school, which is a nut free facility. Any ideas?!


Jac October 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I know this is an old post, but in case anyone else is looking for a substitute… Quick oats are a good substitute, or you can even just ramp up the graham cracker content until the texture it right. Nanaimo bars are incredibly flexible. I often use apple sauce instead of egg in the bottom layer so they travel better and are vegan friendly (once I sub margarine and almond milk for butter and cream).


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