Daring Bakers: Nanaimo Bars

Posted on Posted in bars, chocolate, coconut, daring kitchen, dessert
The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Lauren stated the following: “Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Nah-nye-Moh. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country. I used to buy them at the grocery store before going gluten-free.”Due to budgetary reasons and personal preferences, I opted to not make my graham wafers gluten-free. I did make them with regular flour, though, along with the Nanaimo Bars.

It took me three or four days to finish making the graham crackers because I prolonged the process (procrastinator am I). Nevertheless, they were pretty easy to do; there were just a lot of steps. With the exception of my last batch, which I burned due to my hot oven, the crackers came out beautifully. I was pretty proud of myself for making these crackers.

Homemade graham cracker crumbs. The burnt pieces made the crumbs look even prettier!

Nanaimo Bars: After making the graham crackers, everything moved along smoothly…until I reached the middle layer! I thought I had vanilla pudding mix, but I didn’t. So, as I always do when I don’t feel like going to the store, especially when the sunlight I need for my photos starts to go down, I searched for viable substitutions. I saw that cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla extract were deemed good enough depending on the recipe, so I used that, and it worked out perfectly.
The bottom layer is beautiful. Since I don’t like nuts, I used extra graham cracker crumbs instead. I’m not crazy about coconut, but I used it anyway. I’m glad I did.

REFLECTION ON CHALLENGE: This is the first DB challenge dessert I’ve actually enjoyed eating. Sure, some of the other desserts we had to make were pretty good, but they weren’t so good that I’ve wanted to make them again in the future. These bars made me moan with joy. I shared some with my friend, and I was later reluctant about giving them away haha. After eating them, he sent me a text message in Portuguese stating basically that they were “finger-licking good”.

I’m surprised I liked them since I’m not a fan of coconut, but my favorite layers were the bottom and middle layers. I will be definitely making these again. Thanks, Lauren!! Make sure you check out what the other DBers did for this month’s challenge.
Since I made a few changes to the recipe, I have posted the recipe with my modifications below. For the graham cracker recipe, visit my previous post.

Nanaimo Bars

adapted from the City of Nanaimo, BC


Bottom Layer

1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter

1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar

5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa

1 Large Egg, Beaten

1 3/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Graham Wafer Crumbs (recipe here; half that recipe)

1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped) (I used more graham cracker crumbs instead)

1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)


Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.


Middle Layer

1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter

2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream

2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla pudding mix (I didn’t have so subbed cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla extract)

2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar


Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.


Top Layer

4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate (I doubled the amount of chocolate)

2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter


Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

A side view of my very lame attempt at making Canadian-Olympic-themed-Nanaimo “Bars”! haha I told you that I’m not very creative. The overhead shots were too ugly to post.
Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

0 thoughts on “Daring Bakers: Nanaimo Bars

  1. I so absolutely agree – this is a recipe I will be making time and time again. Not too complicated but so delicious! Your bars look perfect! Great work.

  2. I thought the pictures look great and really yummy! Following the Olympic inspiration, I might go for a long run before heading into the kitchen to attempt those!

  3. I'm with you. I thought the bars were worth making again, and I'm going to keep this recipe in my arsenal. I think the little round ones came out well. Almost like a finger food.

  4. Lovely bars Memoria! I totally agree with you about these bars — one of my favorite DB challenges. Bottom layer was awesome.

    -Anisha

  5. The Graham crackers are beautiful … and put to good use! Look at those lovely bars. I've never eaten or seen these, but looking at the list of ingredients, it's easy to see why they are popular. I can understand why you were reluctant to share them 🙂 The olympic rings are soooo cute!!!

  6. Your bars look absolutely beautiful memoria. Especially that first photo. It's gorgeous. Well done on this month challenge.

  7. Hi Memoria,

    Your bars look perfect. I especially love the cute round ones you made. I like the creative substitution you made when you realized you didn't have vanilla pudding/custard powder for the middle layer. I liked the bars when I made them, but thought they were profoundly sweet. I'd make the graham crackers again (my family loved those) but I think if I were to repeat the bars, I'd find a way to make the middle layer less ferociously sugary!

    🙂 Jane

  8. Way to think on your feet! I probably would have given up and sat sobbing in a corner… well.. maybe not. But, I wouldn't have been so clever as you. I agree, although the other DB challenges are often fun to make they are usually something that you make just to be able to say you did. But, this challenge is just plain yummy and now that I have been inspired by everyone else's different versions I am gunning to go! 🙂

  9. Those Olympic rings are priceless! I love what you did with my challenge and am so glad that you enjoyed it so much =D.

  10. Hi, Memoria

    I have to agree with your other commenters that these Nanaimo bars look divine! Gosh, I wish I had a whole plate of 'em (the Olympic shaped ones are my personal favorite)! I love the way you improvised with the ingredients, just like a real chef! I would have had to run to the store probably for the fifth time! You are gooooood!

  11. Your bars came out great!! I have to tell you, I have visited your blog so many times, just linking from foodgawker. I love your blog, your pictures, and your photos!

    Can't wait to "see" you again after the next DBC!

  12. They look incredible. I like the look of the graham crackers! very healthy looking biscuit. and u constructed the bars beautifully,,,..the rings are adorable!! I think you did a splendid job in this challenge. congrats…n thanks for dropping by :))

  13. Nice job, Memoria! I love the little round cut outs.
    Thanks for taking a look at my attempt at pan dulce. Despite my problems with the dough, they came out fantastic. I am thinking about making them again and trying to repeat my mistakes so that they come out the same way.

  14. Hello, and thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I've heard so many good things about these bars…I really need to make them! 🙂 By the way, your pics are really beautiful!

  15. The photos are gorgeous! You probably didn't really need to try to be too creative with the shots as the bars really speak for themselves. So lovely! 🙂

  16. I like the look of the round ones.

    I'll be honest sometimes I like when the kids don't like what I've made 'cause then it's more for me. 🙂
    ~ingrid

  17. I've always wanted to make graham crackers and yours looks great. It's a shame to make them so pretty only to chop them up!

    The bottom layer of these bars looks so good, I could eat those alone.

    And thanks for the background in these bars. I was never quite sure how to pronounce them (though I was close!) or where they were from, but now I know.

  18. i made those at my school for international day they looved it bu tmy recipe came from another site and they werent gluten free but they were too good

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