Cakespy: Nanaimo Bars Recipe


Quirky, cute, sometimes controversial, always delicious recipes from Jessie Oleson.

Cakespy: Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Note: Jessie Oleson (aka Cakespy) drops by every Monday to share a delicious dessert recipe.

[Photographs and original art: Jessie Oleson]

The origins of the Nanaimo Bar are shrouded in mystery. Popular legend has it that these no-bake bars hit the mainstream when a housewife entered a batch named after her hometown into a magazine contest; however, some say it actually has its origins stateside as the "New York Slice."

Hazy origins aside, few will argue that Canada is where the bar came into its own, and even fewer will argue its deliciousness. A three-layered delight consisting of a coconut-chocolate base topped with a rich custardy buttercream and then finished off with a layer of bonus chocolate on top? Yes please.

  • Yield:about 36 bite-size bars


  • For the bottom layer
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups finely crumbled graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (such as almonds or pecans)
  • For the middle layer
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Custard Powder (such as Bird's), or substitute pudding powder (instant)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • For the top layer
  • 4 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter


  1. 1.

    Prepare bottom layer. Melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa in a double boiler until fully incorporated, but do not let the mixture come to a boil. Add the beaten egg and stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press down firmly into an ungreased 8 x 8-inch pan; try to make the mixture as flat as possible in the pan. Let this cool for about an hour.

  2. 2.

    Prepare the middle layer: in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cream, custard powder, and confectioners' sugar together until very light and fluffy. Spread over the bottom layer, taking care to spread it as flat and evenly as possible. Return the pan to the refrigerator while you prepare the topping.

  3. 3.

    Prepare the top layer: in a medium saucepan or double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter over medium heat, stirring often to ensure that the mixture doesn't scorch. Remove from heat. Let sit until the mixture is still liquid but very thick, then pour it over the second (middle) layer and gently spread it with a spatula to ensure even coverage (but work carefully, because the still-warm chocolate will get messy if you press too hard while spreading it and tear up the buttery layer below).

  4. 4.

    Let the bars cool for at least one hour in the refrigerator before serving.