Nainaimo Bars | Recipe | RTX Traveler Issue 13

Delicious Nanaimo Bars

These Desert Bars have a crumb and coconut layer, topped with vanilla custard flavoured butter icing and covered in Caramel and chocolate -Photographed on Hasselblad H3D2-39mb Camera

A no-bake Canadian dessert classic

Much conjecture has been raised on the actual origin of the Nanaimo Bar recipe. The famous no-bake dessert definitely came from the west coast town of Nanaimo, British Columbia, but it’s not clear who exactly invented it. In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts, in conjunction with Harbour Park Mall, initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar recipe. During the month long contest, nearly 100 different variations of the famous Canadian confection were submitted. Here, straight from the city of Nanaimo, is Joyce Hardcastle’s winning recipe:

Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Bottom Layer
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup 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. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″ x 8″ pan.

Second Layer
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder*
  • 2 cups icing sugar**

Cream all second layer ingredients together well. Beat until light. Spread on top of bottom layer.

Third Layer
  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 ounce each)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

*While custard powder is a common ingredient in Canada, it is not so ubiquitous in the U.S. Find it in a specialty market or online, or substitute 2 tablespoons of vanilla pudding mix.

**Icing sugar is the Canadian term for confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar.

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About the Author

About the Author: Pat Barcas serves as staff writer and photographer for RTX Traveler Magazine, based in Asheville, NC. In his spare time he enjoys photography, astronomy, hiking, hanging out with his family and dog, and of course, traveling! His favorite RTX spots to visit are Orange Beach, Alabama, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, but he's visiting new places all the time. .

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