David Maddison

David's recipes: Nanaimo Bars

These treats are common throughout Canada, where they are called "Nanaimo bars" (presumably after Nanaimo, British Columbia). In some parts of the country, you will find these in every bakery. Typical recipes have less chocolate, and a thicker middle layer (thereby decreasing the total % chocolate); I have modified the recipe to alleviate this undesirable property.

Nanaimo Bars


Beware: These are very intense treats, and should not be considered good for you.

Nanaimo bars are valuable educational tools! Have your students or children make nanaimo bars with you, and teach them principles of stratigraphy!

The following is a recipe for a double batch, which is a lot of Nanaimo Bars; you can halve the recipe and still give yourself and your friends an extreme chocolate buzz. Note that the eggs are not cooked, so you might, for safety's sake, substitute a pasteurized equivalent, like Eggbeaters, which works just as well.

Prepare 9x13 pan by greasing it with butter.


          1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
          1/2 cup brown sugar or granulated sugar
          1/2 cup black cocoa
          1/2 cup regular cocoa
          1/2 cup EggBeaters or equivalent
          about 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (one full 13.5 oz box)
          1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
          1 cup chopped pecans (or other nut such as a walnut, hazelnuts, almonds)

Base: Mix together melted butter and sugar. Add to this cocoa, then the two egg equivalents. Beat until smooth. Add graham cracker crumbs and mix thoroughly. Add coconut and walnuts, and mix. Pay attention at this point to the moisture: if it is very gooey, add more graham cracker crumbs; if it is at all crumbly, add more liquid. This could be EggBeaters or something else, like Grand Marnier. Press into one 9x13 pan. Refrigerate while making middle layer.

Middle Layer

          12 oz butter, softened at room temperature (1.5 sticks)
          6 tbsp custard powder
          1 tsp vanilla
          1 tbsp Grand Marnier
          1.5 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar

Middle Layer: Cream together butter, custard powder, and vanilla. Gradually blend in Grand Marnier and confectioners sugar. Spread evenly over base. Chill well before icing.


          12 oz dark chocolate [e.g., about 25 squares of the 17.5 oz bar of Trader Joe's 70% dark chocolate]
          3 tbsp butter

Icing: Melt chocolate and butter together on low heat. Spread onto chilled middle layer. Important: if the chocolate icing is too hot, or the middle layer isn't cold enough, the chocolate will melt the middle layer. But if the chocolate is too cold and the middle layer is too cold, the chocolate will be very hard to spread.

Chill in a refrigerator, but cut into pieces before the chocolate on top has completely hardened. Store in the refrigerator.

Notes on ingredients:

Custard powder: This is easy to find in Canada, where there are several brands, but can be a bit more difficult in the U.S. The only one I have found in the U.S. is called Bird's Imported English Dessert Mix for Custard Style Pudding", and comes in a yellow, red, and blue box.

Grand Marnier: The traditional liquid to add to the middle layer is milk rather than Grand Marnier. You can choose to add something else instead of Grand Marnier, but there definitely should be 1 tbsp of some liquid added.

Graham cracker crumbs: The texture of the bottom layer is very sensitive to the amount of graham cracker crumbs used relative to the amount of liquid added by the egg equivalents. If there are too many crumbs, then bottom layer is too dry and crumbly, and doesn't hold together well enough; if there are too few crumbs, the bottom layer is too liquidy. I find that two large eggs have less liquid than 1/2 cup of EggBeaters, and that if one uses two large eggs, then 3 cups of crumbs is about right, or even too much, but if one uses 1/2 cup of EggBeaters, then the full 13.5 oz box of crumbs is about right. But it depends upon the brand of crumbs. For example, I find that the Keebler 13.5 oz of graham cracker crumbs requires about 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons of EggBeater. Once you make the mixture, judge if it is at all crumbly, and if so, add more liquid. That can be a bit more EggBeaters, or it can be some other liquid - e.g., add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier. If it is too gooey, you can add a bit more crumbs. Note: you can make a gluten-free version by using gluten-free graham cracker crumbs. The one time I did it this way I needed to use about 4 cups of these crumbs.

©2006 David R. Maddison