The fabulous cookbook, Ms. Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town! will be released in early September and is available now on Amazon.com for Pre-order. Ms. Cupcake will be available in hardcover and Amazon Kindle. The cookbook includes everything vegan from Jaffa Cakes to Nanaimo Bars, miam miam. I would like to share my Naughtiest Vegan Nanaimo Bars in Town and provide my input and tips about their dessert. I will also be including the cookbook review in a separate post, so stay tuned.
Want to see others that made their nanaimo bars?
This was my first time to make Nanaimo Bars or Nanaimo-style Saskatchewan Bars if you’re from Dog River (Corner Gas). This recipe is easily adaptable to be gluten-free with the simple substitution of gluten-free biscuits in the base. Nanaimo Bars consist of three layers, each with their own individual production process (none of which require baking though, making this a great recipe if you don’t have an oven available). I don’t make desserts very often, so I found that this dish required a few ingredients that I don’t typically keep on hand, like custard powder, digestive biscuits, desiccated coconut and flaxseed or flaxseed meal.
Fortunately these ingredients are readily available at Amazon.com and select markets. The custard powder might be the most difficult ingredient to find, we bought Bird’s Custard Powder locally at World Market.
If you are unable to track down the custard powder, don’t worry because Ms. Cupcake has you covered:
“Canadians don’t always stick to the traditional custard version. Do as they do and switch the custard powder for dried coffee, mint extract or peanut butter.”
If you are making these for personal use (i.e., 2-3 pax or a couple), I would recommend halving the recipe. The cookbook states that the recipe makes 15-24 bars but I would say that those are generously sized bars (I can usually have about 1 piece a day). I went ahead and made the entire recipe and used a parchment-lined 13″x9″ baking pan. A rectangular pan is the traditional method, but if you are feeling playful you can also make them in smaller pans or different shapes. Using a Kitchen Scale (in grams) helps a lot with this recipe and would make halving the recipe even easier.
Earth Balance is the recommended vegan butter for this recipe but if you want your custard cream layer to be just a bit lighter and softer, I would advise using Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread with Flaxseed Oil since it’s about half the fat and calories of most Earth Balance vegan butters. With a dessert as decadent as this, it might just make them seem a little less guilty. My favorite part of these bars is the base layer: cocoa powder, crushed biscuits, coconut, walnuts and flaxseed meal. Walnuts are optional, but I recommend using them because they bring some additional texture to the base. I enjoy the base-layer so much that I might even consider making it on its own just to have around as a breakfast bar.
I was really pleased with this recipe, my Naughtiest Vegan Nanaimo Bars ended up looking and tasting fabulous. The only alteration I would suggest is to allow the bars to rest for 3 hours, or even overnight if you can resist the temptation to devour them or refrain from having a nibble, instead of the suggested 1 hour period. The extra time allows for the bars to set and ultimately slice just a little bit better. Properly covered and kept in the fridge, these should last up to 3 weeks.
Now for the recipe, here is it:
Note, allow the bars to rest for 3 hours, or even overnight if you can resist the temptation to devour them, instead of the suggested 1 hour period. The extra time allows for the bars to set and ultimately slice just a little bit better. Properly covered and kept in the fridge, these should last up to 3 weeks.
Liberally grease, or line with parchment paper, a 33cm x 23cm (13” x 9”) cake tin "or baking pan."
In a small bowl, whisk the flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
"If you're making the whole recipe, read further. Use a medium pan if you're halving the recipe." Over a low heat, melt the margarine in a "large" pan with the caster sugar and the cocoa powder. Remove from the heat and add the crushed biscuits, coconut, walnuts (if using) and flaxseed mixture. Stir until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture using a "non-stick spatula" into the prepared cake tin and pop it into the fridge to chill for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the custard cream filling. Using an electric hand-held mixer, mix together the margarine, vegetable fat, icing sugar, custard powder and soya milk. The custard will resemble a soft buttercream. Take the biscuit layer out of the fridge and spread the custard cream across it evenly.
Finally, for the chocolate layer, melt together the chocolate chips and margarine in a pan over a low heat. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the custard cream layer. Return the tray to the fridge. Allow the chocolate "and the bars" to firm up for about "3 hours or overnight" before slicing into it.
The cookbook states that the recipe makes 15-24 bars but I would say that those are generously sized bars. If you are making these for personal use (i.e., 2-3 pax or a couple), I would recommend halving the recipe. The quoted words are additional notes I've made.
Canadians don’t always stick to the traditional custard version. Do as they do and switch the custard powder for dried coffee, mint extract or peanut butter.
The recipe is easily adaptable to be gluten-free with the simple substitution of gluten-free biscuits in the base.
In Step 4, I used a KitchenAid 9-Speed Hand Mixer for the custard cream filling. Start lowest at 0-1, then about 2-3 until the custard resembles a soft buttercream.