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There are good things in life and one of them is definitely having a Nanaimo bar. Since more than one Canadian family claims ownership over it, the one sure thing is where it came from; Nanaimo, B.C. Otherwise it would be called Winnipeg Bars or Vancouver Bars or something like that. Oh it's Canadian all right, as Canadian as maple syrup.

Use good cocoa and real butter. You can get away with margarine in the base but not in the middle and top layers. Always use unsweetened, fine coconut. Sweetened coconut would upset the flavor balance, and large strands of coconut would interfere with the texture of the base. But the most important factor is the bitter chocolate on the top, the chocolate glaze has to be from unsweetened chocolate. Any hint of sugar and it would spoil this magnificent cookie bar. It’s hard to slice it neatly. If you freeze the cookie first, the chocolate will loose its luster. Otherwise the chocolate smears on the middle layer when sliced. A neat freak will have a lot of fun slicing this bar...LOL.

1/2 cup butter
5 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup fine unsweetened coconut

  • Melt the first 3 ingredients in top of a double boiler.
  • Add the egg and vanilla and stir to cook and thicken.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the crumbs, coconut and nuts.
  • Press firmly into an ungreased 8 X 8 pan.
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp cream
2 Tbsp Bird’s Custard Powder
2 cups icing sugar

  • Combine the butter, cream, custard powder and the icing sugar.
  • Beat until light.
  • Spread over the bottom layer.
4 squares of unsweetened chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp butter
  • Melt the chocolate and butter over low heat.
  • Let it cool.
  • When cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in the refrigerator.
  • Lightly score the top before the chocolate completely hardens.
  • When the top is almost solid the bar can be sliced. Makes 16 squares


  1. I have never heard of Nanaimo Bars, but they look like something I could it all by myself! Dark chocolate, coconut layer, walnuts... on your photo it looks irresistible. And no cooking needed!!! What is a Bird's custard powder? Is it a kind of thickener? Can it be substituted with potato starch? Do you mean by "coconut" simple dried coconut? (I have never seen those in a sweetened version in Switzerland)

  2. I mean "no baking needed" of course... sorry

  3. That whole layer could be tricky outside of British culinary influence. First of all, the icing sugar is not just powdered sugar, it has cornstarch in it.

    Bird's custard powder is indeed a very effective thickener, it is essentially made of cornstarch and sugar that has been colored and flavored, but what would be difficult is to reproduce the very distinct flavour that it gives to foods and for this you would need a chemist figuring it out what actually went into it. As far as I know it is not widely available in the United States either. Joyofbaking says you can substitute it with an equal amount of instant vanilla pudding, but the flavour would be different.

    We have several grades of fineness of dessicated cocunut from large flakes to very fine, sweetened, unsweetened, coloured...

  4. Thank you Zsuzsa for the detailed explanation. Even though it seems impossible to reproduce the exact Nanaimo Bars (icing sugar with cornstarch!!! coloured coconut!!! wow! I have never imagined it could exist, for me a "self-raising flour" is already something out of space...), I'll try to make something similar at least visually and in texture, maybe like a white pudding layer... In fact, it's not the real Nanaimo Bars that attract me here (I have never tasted them), but the mixture of walnuts' crust, a chocolate and a sweeter soft layer... I think, as someone living outside of Canada, I must treat it like an inspiration rather than a recipe to be reproduced exactly! Thanks again for your answer.

  5. Welcome to my world Sissi. I am constantly trying to interpret Hungarian recipes with Canadian ingredients.

    BTW - It's very simple to make icing sugar - just add 1 tsp of cornstarch to every cup of powdered sugar.

  6. Thanks for the tip! I also know what you mean... trying to make Polish cuisine in Switzerland is not easy either (especially in the part close to France and not to Germany...).




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