Yummy Nanaimo Bars

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This month’s recipe takes us to Canada where a delightful, no-bake dessert was created which is the Nanaimo bar (nuh·nai·mow baarz). This soft layer of yellow custard sandwiched between rich chocolate ganache and a coconut-graham crust was created in the town Nanaimo on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Photo from Epicurious

The first known recipe for Nanaimo bars appeared in the 1952 Women’s Auxiliary of the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook and was labelled chocolate square. One year later, a similar recipe was published in Vancouver’s Edith Adams’ Cookbook, this time going by the name “Nanaimo Bar.” It subsequently rose to wider prominence after Expo 86. In 2006, the Nanaimo bar was declared Canada’s favorite confection by a reader’s poll in the National Post. Similar sweets have popped up across North America, going by names like “New York slice,” “London fog bar” and “prayer bar.”

Makes 12 bars

½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup white sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1¼ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
½ tsp. kosher salt

Creamy Middle
1 cup unsalted butter
6 tbsp. whole milk
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. kosher salt
4 cups icing sugar

Chocolate Topping
1 cup dark chocolate chips
6 tbsp. heavy cream


  • For the base, first prepare a double boiler on your stove: Fill a large pot about a quarter full of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and place a heatproof bowl overtop. Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.
  • In the double boiler, melt the butter, sugar and cocoa powder, mixing regularly until smooth. Add the egg, stirring constantly until the mixture has just started to thicken a bit, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and salt.
  • Line a 9- x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Spoon the graham cracker mixture inside, press it down firmly and evenly, and refrigerate until solid, about 2 hours.
  • For the creamy middle layer, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until light and airy, about 2 minutes on medium speed.
  • Add the milk, custard powder, salt, and icing sugar and mix on low speed until all the ingredients have been incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and whip until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Pour this creamy mix onto your solid base, make sure it’s evenly spread out, and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  • For the chocolate topping, melt the chocolate and cream together in a double boiler over low heat, stirring constantly. When the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and let rest for about five to ten minutes. Let the mixture cool but keep the chocolate completely melted. Pour this over the cream layer and, using a rubber spatula, spread it out evenly. Chill in the fridge for at least three hours before serving.

Note: If you’d like a bar that isn’t as sweet, decrease the amount of powdered sugar to 3 cups and garnish the top with some flaky sea salt.

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