Valentine’s Day Nanaimo Bars

Many months ago I was a Daring Baker; I loved testing my skills in the kitchen and baking along with some of the most talented bakers in the blogosphere. However, life got busy and I become a dropout, yep…a Daring Bakers dropout. I still drool over the recipes once they hit foodgawker and tastespotting, but now I bake at my own pace…I am so not good with deadlines!

When I saw this month’s recipe for Nanaimo Bars I knew they would be in my baking future, but after seeing Barb’s, I knew they were next on my list! The striking layered effect reminded me of the Brach’s Neapolitan Squares that I loved as a kid. I vividly remember those little coconut candies from the bulk section of the grocery store. My dad and I would always leave with a giant bag, eating most of them on the drive home!

These lovely layered bars are a Canadian dessert that originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. If you are interested in the history of this delectable treat, click here to be taken to the city of Nanaimo’s website. If these bars don’t make you want to visit Nanaimo, the photos of the city certainly will…seriously what a gorgeous place to live! This website is also where I found the recipe that I used for my Nanaimo Bars; I simply added a little pink gel dye to the center layer to give ‘em a little Valentine’s Day flair! After all this research, I still had no clue how to pronounce Nanaimo, so I continued my research and found the pronunciation with audio here, simply click the red speaker looking thingy! I hope this this little tid-bit makes you sleep better tonight! These bars are positively delicious, I will definitely be making these again and again. They are so easy and would be a prefect recipe to have your kiddos help with in the kitchen!

Looking for other Valentine’s Day ideas? Check out these gorgeous Chocolate Caramel Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod and these cute Valentine’s Day Cut-Outs from GoodLife Eats! YUM!

Nanaimo Bars


Bottom Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 1/4 cups graham wafer crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut

Second Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (such as Bird's Custard Powder; I used cook and serve vanilla pudding powder)
2 cups icing sugar (confectioners' sugar)

Third Layer

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Bottom Layer

1. Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler.
2. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts.
4. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.

Second Layer

1. Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well.
2. Beat until light.
3. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer

1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool.
2. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
3. Slice with a warm knife when ready to serve.


- I simply added a little pink gel dye to the middle layer to make it pink.
- I used the microwave for the bottom layer and the third layer; it worked beautifully.
- Make sure you use a warm knife to slice the bars or the chocolate layer may separate.


37 Responses to “Valentine’s Day Nanaimo Bars”

  1. chris — February 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I am a DB Dropout, too! :( This look beautiful. Love the pink! :) ya done good, kid….

  2. Barb @ VinoLuciStyle — February 10, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Well, you know I love them and the pink is a nice touch for Valentine’s Day Jamie. I used to love those layered Brach’s candies; the only thing I ever thought of getting when I passed those displays; thanks for the memory!

  3. Jessica @ How Sweet — February 10, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I am a Daring Baker dropout, too. :( But the worst part is that I joined, and never made ANYTHING! I’m terrible.

    These on the other hand, look wonderful!

  4. Tracey — February 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Great photo Jamie! Thanks so much for all the information about the history of these bars. I’ve seen them all over the internet due to the Daring Bakers, but didn’t know anything about them. Yours look so wonderful and perfectly festive :)

  5. risa — February 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Wow, we could all start a DB drop out club – I’m one too. These bars are gorgeous.

  6. Jill B — February 10, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Hey, thanks for the pronunciation link! I’ve seen these pop up on DB blogs, but was never sure how to pronounce it, and didn’t think to check the interwebs.

  7. marla {Family Fresh Cooking} — February 10, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    These bars sound so yummy, I love the pink centers! I am not so great with the deadline thing either….at least you found the time to make these beautiful bars, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

  8. Maria — February 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Love the pink! So fun for Valentine’s day and thanks for the shout out my friend!

  9. Jaymie Kate — February 10, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    I just discovered your blog, through one of my friend’s (

    It’s inspiring, both as a baking/cooking blog AND as a photography blog. You’re photographs are beautiful! And I can’t wait to test some of your recipes.

    Jaymie Kate

  10. Heather — February 10, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Wow! Those look beautiful and so delicious! Perfect for Valentine’s!
    P.S I love the new look of the blog!

  11. Jeanne — February 11, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I love your Valentine’s day version! As a Daring Baker, my entire month of January was spent obsessing over these bars. They are delicious and addicting, aren’t they?

  12. megan — February 11, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I’m not very good at deadlines either. These look so pretty with the colors!

  13. Krystle — February 11, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Love the pink touch for Valentines! They look amazing!

  14. Emily — February 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Mmmm, Nanaimo bars are one of my very favorite desserts. Growing up on our annual family vacation, we’d pass through Nanaimo on our way up to Desolation Sound and stop just for Nanaimo bars. I love your Valentine’s Day twist – will definitely be making these this weekend!

  15. Sarah @ The Foodie Diaries — February 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    the graham wafers sold me. this looks AMAZING

  16. Alex — February 11, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I love nanaimo bars and the colours in these ones just captured my heart. I’m glad you entered at

  17. Memoria — February 11, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    These are so cute!!!!

  18. sheena — February 11, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    these are adorable =) i think i may have to make these for valentine’s day !

  19. Cherine — February 12, 2010 at 3:24 am

    Lovely, delicious and beautiful!!!

  20. Sylvia — February 12, 2010 at 5:36 am

    I was searching for a beautiful and yummy recipe for valentine’s day. That sounds perfect, love it!!! Very well done photo as well

  21. Scully — February 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    They look wonderful.

    I’m always amazed when I realize that most people outside of Canada don’t know what Nanaimo Bars are. I grew up in Vancouver, they’ve been a part of my life always.

    They’re wonderful and I love the Valentine’s Day effect.

    Thank you for sharing the history of them with others.

  22. Marsha — February 12, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Those bars look so pretty. I love those tri-level cookies too, and sometimes I make them. We call them Neopolitan bars – I think they’re supposed to represent the colors of the Italian flag. They are a bit of work, but well worth it! I invite you to enter my Valentine giveaway. You could win a pink, bead-knitted purse, hand-knit by me, with a chocolate bar charm.


  23. Susan — February 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I love the pink, so pretty! Great idea for Valentine’s Day.

  24. jo — February 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Haha I am a DB drop out as well but have now signed up to the a Daring Cook. Your bars look great and hope you have a great V Day!

  25. Dina — February 12, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    always wanted to try these. they look yummy!

  26. Lucy — February 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    These are so cute – I love the Valentine’s remix! Gorgeous and delicious, I doubt it would be easy to stop at one portion :)

  27. BethieofVA — February 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm


  28. find a boyfriend — February 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    These bars are regular works of art!

  29. school boy — February 15, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    i used these bars for a project and got an A+

  30. howtoeatacupcake — February 16, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Ah you made them pink! So smart!

  31. Natasha Kay — February 20, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Too funny — I am from Vancouver Island (where Nanaimo is) and yes, the Island is one of the most beautiful places on earth (hence the photos on the Nanaimo City website) but truth be told, the actual city of Nanaimo is terribly ugly! But of course, ones definition of “ugly” is relative!

    My hometown of Victoria (, also the capital of British Columbia, is just a few hours south from Nanaimo (on the tip of Vancouver Island) and is typically where most people visit when coming to the Island. But in all honesty, you can’t beat the breathtaking ocean vistas and mountain ranges that surround us on the west coast of BC. Nanaimo or otherwise!

    And of course, I am a good Canadian girl with a family Nanaimo Bar recipe, handed down through the generations. ;)

  32. Jenipher — April 17, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Mmmm these look amazing!!

  33. niki — January 13, 2011 at 1:17 am

    oh you NEED the birds custard powder – it definitely makes the bars. i’ve heard of people using pudding powder but i can imagine the taste would be quite different than ‘authentic’ Nanaimo bars. if you can get your hands on the custard powder, try them again!

  34. Wenderly — February 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    The pink & brown are stunning together!

  35. Cookin' Canuck — February 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Nanaimo bars were one of my favorite treats growing up (just a quick ferry ride away from Nanaimo). I love this Valentine’s take on these bars!

  36. Carlene & Bob Deutscher — June 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    We made a cupcake version of the nanimo bar! Check it out here:


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