Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nanaimo Bars

I had my first Nanaimo Bar back in 2008 while I worked in the bakery at The Fresh Market. There these Canadian treats were called Dream Bars and I quickly learned how delightful they were. These were one of the first desserts I made on my own, inspired by the ones I so often enjoyed at the bakery. I made them again this past Sunday and was quickly reminded of how delicious these little bars can be.

These take a little time to throw together, due to the preparation of three different layers. No actual baking is involved, however, and these would be a great dessert to make when you don't feel like heating up the house. These certainly aren't difficult to make and would be a perfect project for a new baker.

While I was combining the ingredients for the bottom layer, I noticed the mixture was a lot more greasy than I would have expected (or remember it being from years ago when I first made these bars). I actually blotted the top of the bottom layer with a paper towel after pressing it into my pan. I'm not sure what caused the excessive greasiness at the time, but the bars set up great and tasted fabulous.

In my opinion, the real star of these bar is the second, creamy layer. I've been trying to get my hands on custard powder for ages as I really wonder if the taste of the bars would dramatically improve with using custard powder. Unfortunately I still couldn't find any around town, so I make these with your basic vanilla pudding powder. They are absolutely divine custard powder or not!

I followed Jaime's advice to use a hot knife to slice through the bars. This made cutting them a breeze, but I did notice that little streaks of melted chocolate would mar the pale yellow custard layer. The bars are still pretty, imperfections and all. I find bars like this, with distinct layers, very visual appealing.

These bars keep fabulously when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. At the bakery we would get these in frozen, thaw and cut them. I'm sure the homemade version would freezer just as beautifully. These are great chilled, just from the fridge, but I prefer them after they've had a chance to warm up a bit so the layers get soft and creamy. Absolutely divine!

Nanaimo Bars
via My Baking Addiction, originally from here
Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. blanced almonds
1 cup coconut (I use sweetened coconut)

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. (I ground my graham crackers in a food processor then processed the almonds and coconut with the crumbs until the almonds were finely chopped). Press firmly into a parchment-lined 8″ x 8″ pan. Refrigerate while making second layer.
Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (such as Bird’s Custard Powder; I used vanilla pudding powder)
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and powdered sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer. Refrigerate while making third layer.
Third Layer
4 oz. bar semi-sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator. Slice with a warm knife when ready to serve.


  1. Amy, these looks so good!!!! My mouth is watering just by looking at these :(
    Thanks for sharing the recipe, I might try these babies without the eggs!!

  2. These look delicious. I want to come over and raid all of your tasty treats!!!

  3. I love bars like this, they look so so yummy!

    Custard Powder is easy to get in the UK, I use it quite a lot in cakes as it adds an amazing flavour. I hate it when you can't get hold of a brilliant baking ingredient, I want vanilla and butterscotch chips so bad but the cost a small fortune here. x

  4. Greetings from the home of the Nanaimo Bar. The best way to sample one of these delights is to visit Nanaimo of course, but if you would like to make one of our world famous bars at home, you will find several great recipes at It is a well known fact that Nanaimo Bars are not fattening when eaten during our International Bathtub Race Festival, or at Christmas time when eaten with egg nog. :^)
    If you would like to see more of what Nanaimo has to offer I invite you to check out a few slides at
    I know you will find a trip to Nanaimo an enjoyable experience, and if you come during the summer months you can enjoy one of our many summer time celebrations which include the International Bathtub Races, The Silly Boat Regatta, The Dragon Boat Races, The Summertime Blues Festival, Symphony in the Park, all of which are held in our world class waterfront park and promenade.
    Hope to See YOU Soon!


  5. I've heard really truly amazing things about nanaimo bars and after seeing yours, I am 100% certain that I need them in my life!

  6. Goodness! THANK YOU for the recipe! I worked in a small college town in Kentucky for 4 years (Berea) and while I worked there in the library a fiddler from Canada was there on a music research fellowship - She made these bars and I LOVED them! She kept forgetting to get the recipe to me and I never knew how to spell the dessert. So awesome. My sweet tooth will be satisfied this weekend. :)

  7. I can remember the first time I had nanaimo bars , a long time ago , during a vacation . your recipe and pictures make me want to try to make some .. I need to find a good subsitute for the graham wafer crumbs... ;)

  8. I absolutely love these cookies but haven't made them in years. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. OMG. I love your blog. My name's Anna, I'm a stylist and visual merchandiser in LA. I just started my own Fashion site. Check it out for multiple post a day on all things fashion. I'm following, I hope you'll follow back.
    Thanks love. xoxo.

  10. My mom was so excited to see this recipe posted! She has had these when vacationing in Canada and loved them! Looking forward to making these yummy treats, thank you!! -Jen from Ohio

  11. Beautiful, look perfect :)

  12. Used to make these in college back in the late 70's.
    Try adding mint flavoring to them they are great.

  13. Hi Amy!

    What a sweet place you have here! I have heard of Nanaimo bars but never tasted one or made them. Your recipe looks good but I am not sure what vanilla custard powder is.

    I enjoyed perusing many of your other posts too! So nice stopping by to visit with you!

    Kindly, Lorraine

  14. Hello! Found your blog through foodbuzz and I am now following on both! Just moved to Frankfort from California, and it'll be nice to read posts from someone in the same state! :)

  15. Oh my! These look delicious! You do such a fantastic job at making all your baked goods look so appetizing!

  16. Wow, these look amazing! I must make them soon. I'm so glad I stumbled on to your blog via etsy. I was looking for sellers in my city and came across your lovely creations. :)

  17. come back! i miss your posts :)

  18. We made a cupcake version of the nanaimo bar. Check it out on our blog:

  19. You can find Bird's custard powder at Cost Plus World Market or at a British foods specialty store if there is one of those in your area. My husband is Canadian and the first time I tried to make some without custard powder it was a disaster! But now I want to try your recipe - it looks divine!

  20. As a Canadian living abroad I miss Nanaimo bars. I will be making these for my friends so they have a chance to eat a delicious Canadian treat!

  21. I have a question...I followed the same recipe, but my middle layer is super thin. In your picture, the middle layer looks so thick. Do you have a secret? Did you make it in a smaller than 8x8 pan for the photo?

    Thanks for the recipe and thanks to your comments section, I was able to find Bird's custard powder at World Market.

    1. Nope, I used an 8x8 pan. I think perhaps, maybe you didn't beat your filling long enough to incorporate air to make it light and fluffy. Next time, try beating the filling longer (as more air is incorporated, the amount of filling will appear larger).

  22. Ok. I'll try it. Thanks for the reply!


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