Nanaimo Bars

These treats are one of my all time favourites. They’re called Nanaimo bars after a town in British Columbia that shares the same name. They’re quite common in that region, although not many have heard of them outside Canada. Although the three layers may seem like a lot of effort, it’s definitely worth it! They’re also no-bake bars, which is handy if it’s one of those days when you don’t feel like turning on the oven. :)

The bottom layer is a chewy, sweet and slightly salty base made out of coconut, graham cracker crumbs, cocoa, sugar, butter and egg. I threw in some toasted chopped walnuts, but they can easily be made nutfree. The sugar, cocoa and butter are heated over a bain marie.  When they have melted, the egg is added and the mixture is whisked until it thickens as the egg cooks. The egg mixture is then added to the try ingredients and voila! Base is made. Since graham cracker crumbs are hard to come by in the UK, I substituted digestive biscuits for them. I didn’t really notice a difference in taste in the finished product.

The middle layer is the delicious icing layer, made extra special by the addition of custard powder. Did you know that a sachet of Tesco Value Custard Powder is 6p?! I didn’t know you could even buy anything for 6p in Tesco! So, now I’ll have to think of other uses for the Custard Powder seeing as its quite possibly the cheapest baking ingredient ever. :)

Finally the decadent bars are topped with a layer of chocolate.  I think that plain/semi-sweet chocolate is better than milk as it cuts the sweetness of the icing.  And there you have it… my favourite traybake recipe ever!

Nanaimo Bars

16 bars (9″x9″ pan)


Bottom layer:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup graham wafer/digestive biscuit crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds/walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup sweetened dessicated coconut (if using unsweetened coconut, increase the sugar from 1/4 to 1/3 cup)

Middle Layer:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons cream PLUS
  • 2 teaspoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Top layer:

  • 150 g plain/semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter



  1. Melt the butter, cocoa and sugar on a heat proof bowl set over a pot of boiling water (bain marie). Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the surface of the water.
  2. Add the egg and whisk until glossy and thickened. The sugar should be dissolved completely.
  3. Remove from heat and combine with the coconut, digestive biscuit crumbs, and nuts.
  4. Press into bottom of a 8″ or 9″ square baking tin lined with tin foil.
  5. Put in refrigerator to cool.


  1. Sift the icing sugar and custard powder together into a medium sized bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, begin creaming the softened butter. Gradually add the icing sugar and cream until all is full incorporated.
  3. If the icing is too runny, add more icing sugar. If it is too thick, add more cream, one teaspoon at a time. The icing should be easily spreadable.
  4. Using a spatula, spread the icing evenly over the base layer. Place back in the fridge.

Top layer:

  1. Chop the chocolate into small piece and place in a microwave safe bowl. Add the butter.
  2. Microwave in 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between, until chocolate is full melted.
  3. Pour chocolate mixture over icing and spread evenly with a spatula.
  4. Place Nanaimo bars back in the fridge until the chocolate is set.
  5. Devour.

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