Nanaimo bars are these creamy, delicious, chocolatey squares that originated in Nanaimo Canada - a small city located just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, the origins of the Nanaimo bar (aside from its location) are unknown. There are a few speculations and an early printed publication of the recipe in Edith Adams' fourteenth prize cookbook in 1953, but no one really knows who is the original creator.
When I lived in Victoria back in 2007, making a trip to Nanaimo just to eat a Nanaimo bar was high on my priorities, along with this, this, and this. Nanaimo bars are so popular in that city that they have produced a self-guided trail brochure leading you to all the Nanaimo bar desserts.
Nanaimo bars are incredible. They consist of a chewy graham, walnut, and coconut crust, layered with a creamy custard flavored butter icing and topped with a thin layer of chocolate. They are by far my favorite holiday dessert, and I may even like them better than most Christmas cookies. My grandma used to make us a batch each year. She'd bring us a tin of assorted Christmas squares - thumbprint cookies, macaroons etc. and I'd always root through looking for the Nanaimo bars.
The first year I made a batch on my own, I ate the whole tray in less than a week. I no longer make them unless I know there will be folks around to help me out. A few years back I made a mint chocolate version, and lucky for me, Brent's weakness for chocolate mint is larger than my desire to eat a whole tray. They are incredibly easy to make and are even easier to devour. They are seriously my absolute weakness. They don't require any baking, just a quick chill to set each layer before the next is added. Once made, you can package them up in a cookie tin and store them in the fridge for a few weeks, or you can freeze them for even longer. Although, I can guarantee that they won't last that long unless you have some serious self-control.
makes 25 squares
prep time: 40 minutes
cooking time: n/a
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped finely 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Line a 9x9 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan melt the butter, vanilla, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder on low heat. Remove from heat and mix in the beaten egg. Add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts and combine. Press the mixture flat into the baking pan with a spatula. Place in the fridge to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and custard powder, and cream with a hand mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Spread evenly onto the crust. Place back in the fridge for 20 minutes to set.
In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Remove the pan from the fridge, and pour the melted chocolate onto the Nanaimo bars, tipping the pan back and forth ensuring an even layer of chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes until the chocolate has set.
Remove the bars from the fridge and let sit until room temperature. Cut the bars into 25 small squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 6 months.