Nanaimo Bars with Ganache Topping

Nanaimo (7)

I said it once, I’ll say it again.  Christmas is not Christmas without Nanaimo bars? I absolutely love these little custard centered dessert bars; they are probably one of my favourite desserts around Christmas time.  Each layer is like a fun new adventure. The bottom is a chocolaty graham cracker crust like layer loaded with coconuts and your favourite nut.  The middle layer is a buttercream-like custard center and the bar is finished off with a fantastic hard chocolaty top layer.  So. Freaking. Good.  Now, I must say I do have a bone to pick with Nanaimo bars.  I absolutely hate when I bite into one of these tiny dessert bars of awesome, and the hard chocolate top layer pushes down on the custard center, which then proceeds to gush out from all side, all over my hands, plate, clothes, etc.  It leaves for a very messy treat and a very sticky Kelsey.  Last year I made these Nanaimo bars, and they were great (oh how my blogging has changed since then…wow!), but I just did not like how hard the top layer was.  So I brain stormed, and I thought, what can I do to the top layer to make it softer?  That when I remembered my absolute LOVE for chocolate ganache and thought, I’m sure these would be just great with a chocolate ganache topping!

Nanaimo (2)

There are a lot of different variations of the original Nanaimo recipe.  I used a recipe that varied slightly from the original in terms of measurements;  I found it at warmvanillasugar[dot]com.  This recipe uses brown sugar rather than white sugar in the bottom layer4, less cocoa and more graham crackers, and walnuts instead of almonds (loved this substitution).  Instead of the usual 1/2 cup butter and 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp of cream, this recipe calls for 1/4 cup of butter and a full half cup of cream.  I then topped everything off with a basic ganache topping, but adding a small amount of icing sugar to sweeten it up even more.

Nanaimo (6)

For the ganache topping I halved a recipe meant to cover a 13 x 9 inch pan that I used for my Cheesecake Bars last Christmas.  I used 4 oz of heavy whipping cream, 4 oz of chocolate, 1 oz of butter and 1/8 cup of icing sugar to fill the 8 x 8 inch top layer.

Nanaimo (5)

Nanaimo Bars with Chocolate Ganache Topping

makes enough for an 8 x 8 inch pan (approximately 25 squares total)


for the crust

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

for the custard buttercream center 

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons custard powder

for the chocolate ganache top

  • 4 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar

Baking Directions

  1. Make the crust:  Melt the butter, brown sugar and cocoa in a pot or double boiler.
  2. Beat the egg and quickly whisk it into the chocolate mixture.
  3. Add the graham crackers, coconut and walnut and press into a 8 x 8 ungreased pan that has been lined with parchment.  Chill in refrigerator for at least a half hour.
  4. Make the custard buttercream center:  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the powdered sugar, butter and custard powder.
  5. Slowly add the cream and beat until light and fluffy.
  6. Spread the cream layer evenly over the crust and refrigerate for another half hour.
  7. Prepare ganache.  Heat cream and butter on stove until just before boiling.
  8. Remove from stove and pour over chocolate.  Stir until completely combined.
  9. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat with a wire whisk until combined and smooth.  Pour over middle custard layer, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Nanaimo (1) The bars turned out really well… much better than last years and I did a much better job at making nice even layers.  I really hope you enjoy this recipe – try the chocolate ganache top, it’s heaven.  Happy Baking!!!