This month’s Daring Baker challenge was to make Nanaimo Bars and graham crackers. I was so excited when I saw our assignment, as these have been on my list of things to try for a few years. According to Wikipedia,
“The bar originated in Ladysmith south of Nanaimo in the early 1950s. A local housewife from Cowichan Bay, by the name of Mabel Jenkins, submitted the recipe to the annual Ladysmith and Cowichan Womens Institute Cookbook. This cookbook was sold in the early 1950s in the region as a fundraiser. It made its way throughout the province’s communities by way of household cookery recipes shared by housewives in the 1950s, particularly via company towns. It was sold in many of the coffee shops on Nanaimo’s Commercial Street, and soon became popular. Tourists in the region, especially US tourists on pleasure boats came to refer to these as “Nanaimo Bars”. To most in Nanaimo and the region south of it to Duncan, however, these were originally referred to as Mabel bars, or W.I. bars. The earliest confirmed printed copy of the recipe “Nanaimo Bars” appears in a publication entitled His/Her Favourite Recipes, Compiled by the Women’s Association of the Brechin United Church (1957), with the recipe submitted by Joy Wilgress, a Baltimore, Maryland native (p.52). (The Brechin United Church is in the north side of Nanaimo.) In 1954 the recipe “Mable’s Squares” (p.84) was published in “The Country Woman’s Favorite” by the Upper Gloucester Women’s Institute (New Brunswick). The recipe was submitted by Mrs. Harold Payne, the daughter of Mable (Knowles) Scott (1883-1957). The ingredient list, quantities, and assembly steps closely match the recipe found on the City of Nanaimo web site. Other unconfirmed references date the bars back to the 1930s, when it was said to be known locally as “chocolate fridge cake”. Some New Yorkers claim that it originated in New York, and refer to them as “New York Slices”. However, Tim Horton’s coffee shops in New York sell them as “Nanaimo Bars”. One modern reference even refers to the bars existing in nineteenth century Nanaimo.”
According to my family, they taste very similar to a homemade Mounds bar. They were fairly easy to make and were very Arizona summer friendly, in that they didn’t use the oven! As I was making the bottom layer, I thought they smelled like one of those “Hello Dolly Bars” that use Eagle brand milk and make their appearance around Christmas.
If you like chocolate and coconut, these bars are definitely for you!
Author: Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker
- Bottom Layer
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- 5 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup almonds, chopped
- 1 cup coconut , shredded
- Middle Layer
- ½ cup butter
- 2 Tbsp plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp Bird's Vanilla Custard Powder
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- Top Layer
- 4 ounces Semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- For bottom Layer: Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 minute.
- Add egg,stir and microwave 2 minutes until thick.
- Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut.
- Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
- For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and powdered sugar together well.
- Beat until light in color.
- Spread over bottom layer.
- For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter in a bowl in the microwave.
- Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.