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Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Nanaimo Bar

The Nanaimo Bar is named after the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.  This moreish, no-bake bar has a biscuit base, topped with a custard layer then a crisp chocolate top. They’re delicious but don’t take my word for it, the Canadians voted the bar their favourite confectionery.

Nanaimo Bar History

The first printed copy of the recipe using the name Nanaimo is found in Edith Adams’ cookbook in 1953.  Edith was a fictitious newspaper food writer for the Vancouver Sun who doled out homemaker advice to its readers.  If a reader got their recipe printed, they’d be sent a dollar and it would appear that Lenore Newman wrote the recipe published in the paper but under the title London Fog Bar.  It seems since then there have been quite a few reincarnations but all closely match the original recipe.

They’re called various things across Canada from Victoria Specials in Drumheller, Mabel’s Squares in Nova Scotia to New York Slices in Winnipeg and Kenora.

Canada is celebrating its 150th year and so it seems the perfect time to whip up a tray of Nanaimo Bars and scoff for Canada.

Here’s a recipe I got given from a Whistler resident.



For the biscuit layer

1 egg
60g sugar
15ml vanilla extract
120g butter
75g cocoa
240g of Graham Crackers crumbs (If you can’t get hold of Graham Crackers, I use 120g Digestive and 120g Rich Tea biscuits to good effect). Oreo’s might just be the perfect substitution.
120g chopped walnuts
240g coconut (A combination of desiccated and chopped, toasted)

For the custard layer

45g butter
45ml milk
30g Bird’s Custard Powder
480g Icing Sugar
9″ x 9″ baking pan

Begin by making the biscuit base

In a bowl, over a pan of simmering water, melt the butter with the sugar and cocoa powder, stirring occasionally until smooth. I always microwave mine, 600W for about a minute and a half, keeping a very close eye on it. Whisk in the egg until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and mix in the biscuit crumbs, coconut and chopped walnuts if using, then press into the base of a lined 20cm square tin. Chill for 10 mins.

Then the custard layer

Whisk together the butter, milk and custard powder until light and fluffy, then gradually add the icing sugar until fully mixed. Spread over the biscuit layer and chill in the fridge for at least 10 mins until the custard is no longer soft.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave (or over a pan of simmering water), then spread over the chilled bars and put back in the fridge. Leave until the chocolate has fully set. Take the mixture out of the tin and slice into bite-sized squares.

Nanaimo Bars Recipe

They will keep in an airtight tin for up to a week but don’t expect them to hang around that long.

Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Cherry & Walnut Brownie Recipe - with Colombian Panela

Cherry and Walnut Brownie Recipe

Panela is organic dried sugar cane juice, collected by crushing peeled sugar cane in a mill.  Used in the place of regular sugar, it worked a treat in this squidgy, cherry and walnut brownie recipe.

cherry and walnut brownie recipe


Freshly harvested sugar cane is pressed in small Colombian family run farms known as ‘trapiches’, and the juice is cold-filtered, evaporated in a cauldron over a fire using the sugar cane husks as fuel. The liquid is boiled until it produces a thick caramel-like consistency where it’s poured into square block moulds to set.  When it’s compact and solid, it becomes an essential kitchen ingredient. Ground into a fine powder it’s convenient for use on porridge, sprinkled on yoghurt and adds a rich, moist texture to baked products.


I compared the Panela with other sugars in the store cupboard, and it did come out on top, having slightly fewer calories and carbs than both granulated white sugar and unrefined dark brown soft cane sugar.

cherry and walnut brownie recipe

The results were excellent, and while chocolate brownies aren’t a great example of a low-calorie treat, the Panela did a good job where caster sugar was required.

This has walnuts; I know that Nigel Slater says nuts get in the way, but I like the texture.  This recipe gives brownies with a thin crust, a centre somewhere between melted chocolate and bog mud, with walnut and cherry pieces for contrast.  Making full use of the glut of cherries in season now.

Cherry & Walnut Brownie Recipe


130g butter
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
55g cherries
55g walnuts
225g Colombian Panela – I used Hasslacher’s
55g cocoa powder
75g plain flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4. Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper.  Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or the microwave on a low setting to melt.  De-stone the cherries and roughly chop them along with the walnuts. Stir into the melted chocolate.  In another bowl, add the sugar, then sift in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. Add to the melted chocolate mixture and stir well.  Beat the eggs and mix in.  Transfer the mixture to the tin, then bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool before cutting into squares.

cherry and walnut brownie recipe

cherry and walnut brownie recipe