If you’ve been following us on our Social Media sites, you will know that we were recently able to take a working “holiday” to Vancouver Island. We have already uploaded two of our three videos that we shot while we were there- Sand Dollar Sugar Cookies, and a Marshmallow Shooter- but our video today was definitely my favourite because I LOVE Nanaimo Bars!
A Nanaimo Bar is a Canadian specialty, in case you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about. It is a three layered dessert bar that has a bottom, brownie like base with almonds and coconut, a middle vanilla custard layer, and a top layer of chocolate.
My Grandma had a Nanaimo Bar recipe that my mom and her sisters always make. I was going to use that recipe one day to make a video, but when the opportunity to head to Nanaimo presented itself, I knew I was going to have to skip Grandma’s recipe, and go for the original one.
The true origin and documented first version of the recipe cannot be found but the city of Nanaimo claims it to be theirs, as they are the namesake of this particular bar. There are other bars that are similar and ones that go by different names, but this is the version that is known to be the official Canadian Nanaimo Bar version. The first printing of the bar was documented to be in the 1952 Women’s Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook.
If you have never heard of this dessert, or never made it homemade before, you MUST stop what you’re doing and make it now. There is NO comparison to the store bought version. This version is amazing.
Nanaimo Bar Recipe
Recipe from the City of Nanaimo
- ½ cup unsalted butter (120 grams)
- ¼ cup sugar (50 grams)
- 5 Tablespoons cocoa powder (27 grams)
- 1 egg beaten (2 ounces)
- 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs (111 grams)
- ½ cup finely chopped almonds (73 grams)
- 1 cup coconut (shredded) (98 grams)
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″ x 8″ pan.
- ½ cup unsalted butter (120 grams)
- 2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons cream (40 milliliters)
- 2 Tablespoons vanilla custard powder (I used Bird’s Custard) (30 milliliters)
- 2 cups icing sugar (200 grams)
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 Tablespoon unsalted butter (30 grams)
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Nanaimo Bar Trail Tour
The city of Nanaimo has provided a great Nanaimo Bar Trail Brochure that we picked up at the start of the tour- the Nanaimo Museum. I figured the best way to kick it off would be to see the actual recipe! The museum entry was $1.50 per person, and wasn’t busy at all, so we had the Nanaimo Bar display all to ourselves!
I adored the stools, and wish that they would have fit my living room decor! I’m glad that they weren’t for sale or I would have made a really bad decision and bought one.
Seeing the Nanaimo Bar recipe was really cool for a baking geek like myself. Being that the Nanaimo Bar is a quintessential Canadian dessert, it was really amazing to be able to see the official recipe.
Our first stop after the Museum was the nearby Cherub Chocolate, where we found Nanaimo Bar Truffles. The chocolates in this adorable store are handcrafted and the truffles are amazing. The Nanaimo bar flavoured ones have a delicious custard like centre, and are covered in smooth chocolate coating and chunks of coconut and almonds.
Our next stop was at Bocca Cafe, where they had Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars.
Obviously these were not the traditional flavour and instead of the vanilla custard layer, they had a peanut butter cream layer. In my opinion, these weren’t really a Nanaimo bar, other than the same type of layering, but since they were peanut butter flavour, I still loved them.
Our final stop, and most amazing dessert I have had in YEARS was a deep fried Nanaimo Bar from Pirate Chips. How could you not love a place that had a Pirate out front?
The deep friend nanaimo bar was wrapped in a light doughnut like batter, and you could tell it had only been flash fried briefly as the bar inside was still in perfect shape. It was warm and delicious!
Visiting these different shops along the way was definitely a really fun thing to do and it’s a great thing to do if you’re in Nanaimo, and obsessed with their famous dessert like me!