Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Perfect Bonfire bake: Nanaimo bites

Having demolished the Bonfire Cakes, I wanted to bake something else that we could nibble at as we ohhed, ahhed and stamped our feet to keep warm at the firework display.

These fitted the bill perfectly. Nanaimo bites. I first read about them in Edd Kimber's brilliant 'The Boy Who Bakes'. Edd describes them as the quintessential Canadian recipe and they hail from a small Canadian town called Nanaimo. Back in the 1950s, a British Columbian housewife first created these rich, decadent treats, entering the recipe into a WI fundraising cookbook. A whole host of different versions of the recipe exist on the interweb, but I've adapted the one given by Edd. 

These are bloomin' good; a crunchy, coconut bottom layer is followed by a creamy custard middle layer and topped with a rich, dark chocolate ganache. In fact, these are so good they'd probably be illegal in some countries. You can definitely see why they were recently voted Canada's Favourite Confectionery

As well as to warm the cockles on Bonfire night, other good uses of these may include dessert at a lovely big party or as after-dinner chocolate treats.

I've omitted the nuts that traditionally accompany the bottom layer: you may wish to add a handful of chopped walnuts, toasted pecans or almonds into the mix. 

Nanaimo bites
(makes 20 small squares)

For the bottom layer:
150g rich tea biscuits
85 unsalted butter
35g caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g dessicated coconut

For the middle layer:
45g butter
150g icing sugar
2 tablespoons custard powder
50ml double cream

For the top layer:
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
20g unsalted butter

1. Firstly place a layer of foil at the bottom of a 8inch x 8 inch square tin
2. To make the bottom layer: place the biscuits in a plastic food bag and crush with a rolling pin. Set the bag aside. Pop the butter into a small pan and melt over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat once melted and whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder, then beat in the eggs. The mixture should be lovely and thick, but if not you can place it back on the gentle heat for a minute or so, whisking constantly until it does thicken. Add the vanilla, coconut and biscuit crumbs. Press this mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepare tin. Chill for approximately one hour until firm
3. To make the middle layer: beat the butter and icing sugar together. Add the custard powder and the cream and beat until smooth and glossy. Spread over the chilled bottom layer, smoothing over with a spatula. Pop back in the fridge to set (roughly a further thirty minutes)
4. To make the top layer: Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a bowl. Set aside. Pop the cream into a small pan and heat over a gentle heat until just before it begins to boil. Pour over the broken up chocolate and leave for a minute or two before adding the butter and stirring all together to create a smooth, glossy ganache. Pour over the chilled mixture, smooth the top and return to the fridge to set. This will take a couple of hours.
5. Cut into small squares to serve. It can be kept in the fridge until ready to serve

Baker's notes
  • You can crush the biscuits by pulsing them in a food processor. But, seriously, is this as fun as whacking a plastic bag full of biscuits with a rolling pin? Course not.
  • If the middle, custard cream layer isn't smooth, light and fluffy add a touch more cream until it is
  • These are properly properly rich, even for a greedy, sweet toothed chocoholic such as myself, so cutting them into small squares is probably quite sensible.... 
  • Other versions include cranberry (replace the coconut with 50g of dried cranberry), mint (omit the coconut and use mint dark chocolate throughout) or orange (omit the coconut and use orange flavoured chocolate with zest of one orange in the base layer)
  • I couldn't really tell you how long they last. They were all gone, including licking of the foil, within 8 hours of baking.


  1. Omg these look bloody amazing!! I have serious food envy!

  2. Wow, they look gorgeous. Love the colour of the layers - intense chocolate and lovely bright centre. I love the idea of the variations you've given, especially the cranberry one and the mint one..... mmm, wonder if I can think of an excuse to make these?!

  3. Come on now! Are there really people that DON'T prefer whacking cookies to death in a plastic bag over a food processor? Madness!

    These look amaaaaazing! Perfect choice for firework snacks :)

  4. Ha ha Kate, does anything you bake last longer than 8 hours? These look so striking. I've seen various recipes for these and keep thinking I must give the a try. Am quite liking the sound of this one.

  5. GREAT looking Nanaimo bars, I made some a few weeks ago and they were NO WHERE as neat as yours! LOL! These look LUSH and the mint one has my name on it!

  6. Yours is the second blog I've looked at with these fabulous bars - I love the idea of custard, chocolate and a biscuity base...perfection!

  7. wooooowwwww! what a lovely idea . YUM. I am 24 weeks pregnant. It is late at night and you have made me hungry.... grrrrr. Will have to send husband on a chocolate mission but I doubt it will be enough now... x

  8. Well, these look gorgeous but so perfectly made...a 'must do' for sure!

  9. These look amazing, i want one now :)


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