Tuesday 23 October 2012

Nanaimo Bars for Alphabakes

When we announced the letter for this month's Alphabakes as N, I knew right away what I wanted to make - Nanaimo Bars. Unfortunately at least two other people have already beaten me to it for the blog challenge, one of whom used the exact same recipe I was planning to use... but undeterred, I decided to make this for my Alphabakes entry anyway.

Nanaimo Bars originate from Canada and are popular across North America. They have three layers: a bottom biscuit layer, a middle custard layer and covered with chocolate on top. Apparently the recipe was created by a local housewife and became popular, selling particularly in the coffee shops in Nanaimo in British Colombia, hence the name.

I found that Edd Kimber, aka the Boy Who Bakes, had a recipe for these bars on his website and as I haven't made any of his recipes before, decided it would be good to try. It also looked pretty straightforward, which was a bonus!

I won't republish the entire recipe here; you can use the link above to see it on Edd's site. I found it interesting that he uses American measurements for his recipe (eg 2 cups biscuit crumbs), as he's based in the UK, but perhaps it's because this is a Canadian recipe. In any case I have a set of American measuring cups so that was no problem! Here's what I did:

Line a square baking tin with foil. Melt half a cup of butter.

Stir in a quarter cup of sugar and a third of a cup of cocoa powder. I didn't have a 1/3 cup size so just estimated.

Slowly whisk in one egg until the mixture thickens.

Take off the heat and mix in 1 tsp vanilla, 2 cups biscuit crumbs (I used Graham Cracker crumbs that I brought back from my trip to America) and 1 cup dessicated coconut. I was quite pleased the recipe called for this, as I'd had half a bag of dessicated coconut hanging around in the back of the cupboard for a while!


Mix well and press down into the prepared tin and refrigerate until firm.

Beat a quarter cup of butter and add 2 cups icing sugar.

Mix 2 tbsp custard powder with 3 tbsp milk and add to the mixture. Add a little more milk if the mixture is too stodgy, though as I discovered you really don't want it to be runny!

Spread over the base layer and refrigerate again until firm.

Melt 85g dark chocolate with 1 tbsp butter and spread over the top. I actually found this wasn't enough so melted some more butter and chocolate. Again, refrigerate until set.

It looks very nice when it is set....

.... but here comes the real test: slicing it into bars!

It started off OK but as you can see, the filling ended up squidging out (is that a word?). The chocolate on top had set so hard that to get a knife through I had to press down quite firmly, and that in turn made the custard layer come out of each side. I was quite annoyed as the other people who made this already for Alphabakes didn't seem to have had this problem!

Here's one that did turn out ok, you can see the three layers clearly.

 The base is perhaps a little thicker than I would have liked and to be honest I wasn't really a fan of the dessicated coconut in the biscuit layer and would have preferred to leave it out. I've since read that there are several variations on nanaimo bars for instance using peanut butter, which sounds nice! So if you are going to give this a go, my main piece of advice would be to make the custard layer thicker than you think you need - so thick in fact that it's not that easy to spread onto the biscuit layer. It probably explains why I needed more chocolate to cover the top as well, as I spread it on too thick. If I had spread it thinner, it wouldn't have been so hard to cut through with a knife and the custard might not have oozed out! Oh well, we live and we learn!

I am sending this to Alphabakes, hosted this month by Ros of the More Than Occasional Baker

I am also sending this to United Bakes in America, hosted by Cupcake Crazy Gem. Before all you Canadians get up in arms and say that just because this is popular in America it doesn't count, let me explain that the reason I am entering it is because my Graham Cracker Crumbs came from Wal-Mart in Denver, Colorado!


  1. The only difference between the recipe I used, from Joy of Baking, and Edd Kimber's, is some nuts in the base - as far as I can see. Like you, I also found the custard layer got very squidgy unless the bars were kept refrigerated; the secret to cutting the chocolate without squishing the custard too much is a hot knife.

    1. Thanks, I'll remember that about the hot knife next time!

  2. I love Nanaimo bars and made some last year when I reviewed an AWW cookbook! Yours look just lush Caroline! A great entry for N and alphabakes, Karen

  3. strange name! but they look good.

  4. A Canadian girl at my office made some of these once. They didn't last long!


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