The Royally Baked / Recipes  / Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

Ooh Canada. Every so often I start to feel a little homesick, so I generally try to head on up for a visit 2, 3, or even 4 times a year to catch up with friends, family and my twin brother. I've been living in Mexico for 10 years now, but Vancouver will always be my home. If you ever get a chance to visit, you really should. Vancouver has it all, the ocean, mountains, and a city thats not too big.

While visiting I always go on a couple of hikes, since the city I live in Mexico is pretty well... desert like and lacking a bit of greenery.

Mexico is a country rich in traditions and culture, while Canada is a bit younger and doesn't really have many traditions or traditional foods. My Mexican friends always like to ask "What's a typical Canadian dessert?" While we don't have much, we do in fact have a few.

Nanaimo bars are always the first thing that comes to my mind. These bars are named after a city, close by to Vancouver, on Vancouver island. Made of three layers, this dessert is rich and can be found at most local bakeries and coffee shops (at least on west side I know for sure.)

A vanilla custard/buttercream filling, on top of a chocolate cookie coconut base, finished with a layer of chocolate. Some variations include adding mint extract, coffee, or even peanut butter to the filling but the original and most commonly found is just plain old vanilla.



Nanaimo Bars

Makes 20 bars, One 9"x9" or 8"x8" pan.


Cookie base layer:

  • ½ cup / 112 gm butter
  • 1cup / 60 gm sugar, white
  • ⅓ cup / 50 gm cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ cup / 125 gm Graham cracker, crumbs
  • ½ cup / 50 gm almond flour
  • 1 cup / 100 gm coconut, flaked


German buttercream (middle layer):

  • ⅓ cup + 1 Tbsp / 100 ml milk
  • ⅓ cup / 75 gm sugar, white
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 oz. / 225 gm butter, room temp.
  • 1 tsp / 5 ml vanilla extract


Chocolate topping:

  • 4 oz. / 115 gm chocolate, semisweet
  • 1 Tbsp / 14 gm butter




Making the cookie base:

1.In a double boiler (or in a small pot), melt together the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.

2. Once fully melted, turn off the heat, and add a beaten egg, stirring fast so it doesn't curdle (think cottage cheese). When fully combined, continue to cook while constantly  stirring on low for about 3 minutes until smooth and silky.

3. In a bowl, combine together the graham cracker crumbs, almond flour, and coconut. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl and mix everything together using a wooden spoon or your hands.

4. Press the mixture into a foiled 9x9" pan. Set in the fridge.


Making the German buttercream:

1. In a small pot on low heat, add milk and sugar cooking until all the sugar is dissolved.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together the yolks, cornstarch, and salt. Make sure to get out all the lumps.

3. Temper you slightly cooled milk into the yolks, whisking while gradually adding the warm milk to prevent curdling the yolks. Then put the mixture back into the pot.

4. Cook on the custard mixture on medium low, whisking constantly, until thick and slightly starts to boil. Once you see a bubble form, continue whisking on heat for 1 minute.

5. Place the custard into a clean bowl, apply plastic wrap directly touching the top so the custard doesn't form a skin, and let it cool in the fridge.

6. In a large bowl, beat together the room temperature butter until smooth and the colour has lightened.

7. Add the cooled custard, spoon by spoon, beating until combined in-between every addition of custard. Finally beat in the vanilla.

Assembling the bars:

1. Spread the buttercream over top of the chocolate base, in a even layer. Set in the fridge for 5 minutes to harden up a bit.

2. Meanwhile in a microwave safe bowl, in 30 second bursts, melt together the chocolate and butter until smooth.

3. Pour the chocolate on top of the buttercream layer, again spreading so the layer is even. Leave it plain, of add chopped nuts, drizzle with white chocolate, or add a bit of sea salt as I did. Let cool in the fridge, slice and serve.

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