Christmas Baking – Nanaimo Bars


17 Dec Christmas Baking – Nanaimo Bars


For obvious reasons, I nearly entitled this post “Things Fall Apart”.

Last year’s Nanaimo bars held together like a charm. This year? Not so much.

Was it my wonky oven, which as been fixed but is sulking because it will soon be replaced? Did I reduce the fat too much when I was forced to substitute bittersweet chocolate for cocoa powder? Or was I dipping into the Grand Marnier more than I realized?

Fortunately, the majority of the pan held together enough to serve to guests.


But what am I doing with the disintegrating remains? Heading to a dark corner with a spoon and pointing you to my tag line: Real food. Real life. It ain’t always pretty.

Had any Christmas baking disasters you’d care to share?

No Comments
  • Divawrites
    Posted at 18:44h, 17 December Reply

    Just today…making sugar cookie dough while simultaneously “teaching” my daughter about cooking…
    I must have forgotten to double the flour…because the chilled dough didn’t…and it was a soggy mess that wasn’t going to roll…into the compost. Oh well, gingerbreads worked and at least I have cookies for the pre-school Christmas party tomorrow morning…

  • Sam
    Posted at 18:44h, 17 December Reply

    oooh, Nanaimo Bars, I haven’t had any since I was in Vancouver about 12 years ago and I still remember them very very fondly!!!

    I am just not quite certain what Graham Crackers translates into in British!!?

  • dana McCauley
    Posted at 18:49h, 17 December Reply

    what a shame! So far this year I’ve made it through without incident. A couple of years ago though I was doing Christmas baking TV segments in Calgary and Julie Van Rosendaal (of blog dinner with Julie) was helping me out by doing the prep.

    It was unseasonably warm and when she got home from the morning show she placed the Buche De Noel we’d saved to reuse on the lunch show on her porch while she found her keys. After getting in the house and coming back to the porch she found squirrels eating the pistachios off the cake (really!). She shooed them off, patched the frosting and no one was the wiser when it was on air. We did through the cake away before anyone had a piece though.

  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 18:51h, 17 December Reply

    I should, of course, have said that we did throw the cake out, not through the cake…but you guys likely figured that out, right?

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 18:59h, 17 December Reply

    I love you all for making me feel better.

    Diva. I’m so sorry your dough was wasted. Glad the gingerbread worked.

    Sam, you could try substituting McVittie’s (sp?) digestive biscuits. They have graham flour in them, I believe. And Nanaimo bars are one of my faves, too. Hate that they imploded.

    Dana, I did know you meant “throw” and had a good laugh. I can just see the squirrel heading straight for the pistachios and thinking Christmas came early.

  • Elizabeth Kricfalusi
    Posted at 19:22h, 17 December Reply

    I love Nanaimo bars as well and have finally found a store here that stocks custard powder. One of the best things about them is watching my American friends try to remember what they’re called! :)

    When I lived in Japan, one year I decided to cook a traditional Christmas dinner for my Japanese co-workers. I stocked up on hard-to-find foods (like turkey) at the international store in Tokyo for a king’s ransom.

    After I’d made everything, I decided to have a taste of pickled beets–one of my favourites–only to discover that the bag of sugar I’d bought was, in fact, a bag of salt! The beets were bad enough, but the cranberry sauce and sugar cookies (!) were the true disasters…

    By the way, I LOVE the pic at the top of the page. It looks very Christmas-y, kind of like the bars are partially made with snow. Makes me think you should crumble up the remains and serve them over ice cream.

  • cheryl
    Posted at 20:29h, 17 December Reply

    There’s no way I could top Elizabeth, but nearly every year I bake a large bundt cake to serve to multiple people, and two years in a row I pulled the thing out too early and it was totally, totally raw in the center.

    Whoops. I’m not so swift at learning from my mistakes, I suppose.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 23:32h, 17 December Reply

    Send the crumbs anyway———–!!
    My disaster this year was the Reese peanut butter squares which fell apart!!!!!!!!!!! The recipe called for a BOX of confectionary sugar, but now I know the boxes vary in size—some 3 cups———some 2 cups———–wish I had known that earlier! Used the 3 cup size—squares fell apart—-we ate fabulous crumbs with a spoon !

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 09:05h, 18 December Reply

    Elizabeth, I think you win a prize for the best disaster story. I can’t believe your Christmas cookies were made with salt!

    Good custard powder is hard to find. Most brands are bland. Birds was great but I can’t find it anymore, so have moved onto a Grand Marnier version. Hic…

    Cheryl — I, too, liked Elizabeth’s idea of putting the crumbs on ice cream. Funny how the bundt cake doesn’t work out. Did you give up or figure out the issue?

    Anonymous, blame the recipe writer, not yourself. The recipe should have specified the box size. Funny, but my icing sugar comes in bags and I’ve been known to purchase from the bulk bin. Oh, the perils of relying on manufacturer’s packaging.

  • ClaireWalter
    Posted at 11:21h, 18 December Reply

    I’ve never made Nanaimo bars (tho’ considering how much I like Vancouver Island, I probably should!), but I wonder whether something could be salvaged by softening some vanilla ice cream and mixing the crumbles into it.

    Dipping stores that mix to order, like Cold Stone Creamery, mix Oreos, Reeses, chocolate chip cookies and all sorts of other sweets into ice cream.

    Claire @

  • Elizabeth Kricfalusi
    Posted at 14:25h, 18 December Reply

    The store here stocks Birds and another brand. I’ve used the former before (smuggled it here from Canada) and it was perfect. But one time when I didn’t have any, I used Jello Vanilla Custard-flavoured pudding mix and it wasn’t a half-bad substitute.

  • cheryl
    Posted at 14:46h, 18 December Reply

    You know what? I just cook the hell out of things now. I realized that my fear of overcooked, dry cakes has never actually materialized, whereas raw-in-the-middle cakes happen a few times a year. My solution? Wait for a tester to come out clean and then leave the cake in another 5-10 minutes, depending on how big it is. I’ll let you know if it works after my new year’s day brunch!

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 19:09h, 18 December Reply

    Claire, you and Elizabeth are on the same wavelength. I’ll have to get some vanilla ice cream!

    Elizabeth, your substitution surprises me, but if it works, it works.

    Cheryl, I’ve undercooked a few cakes in my time. The worse was a flourless cake that used bean paste. It was more like pudding than cake. Let’s hope your trusty cake tester doesn’t let you down this time!

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 20:11h, 18 December Reply

    Who hasn’t scraped pumpkin pie filling out of the crust after it has been in the oven for 5 minutes to add the rest of the puree, or spooned oozy cookies off the sheet and back into the bowl for more flour, or baked cake without baking powder, or when much younger substituted baking soda for baking powder not knowing they were two very different items??
    I once made a Grasshopper pie with a crust that needed to be chiselled out of the plate. My mother-in-law held the dish while I fought with the blasted disaster. My solution is not to bring dessert to any party I attend.
    CPC you will remember that night!

  • Lisa magicsprinkles
    Posted at 00:35h, 19 December Reply

    I'm more than happy to help you ah, clean up your messes! Last year the apple pie I'd worked on for HOURS was ready, but the top wasn't GB&D enough so I set it under the broiler and… forgot about it until we smelled smoke. I scraped off the charred layers, but it wasn't the same. My son named the new black bear webkinz he got from Santa "Burnt Pie". Thanks honey.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 11:51h, 20 December Reply

    Robin, yes, I remember your grasshopper pie. I think we bent a fork or two trying to eat it. But then I once made a ginger loaf and forgot the leavening. Dad ate it diligently but with each bite proclaimed, “OOoof! Sits in your stomach like a silver dollar.” Thanks, Dad.

    Lisa, I’ve left things under the broiler too long more than once. I now never leave my post if anything is broiling. It only takes a few seconds to go from golden to charred. Sorry it happened to Santa’s pie.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 16:01h, 22 December Reply

    I celebrated an early Christmas with friends and decided to make Tiramisu. 1/2 way through I ran out of soaking liquid for the ladyfingers so I just threw together a makeshift version for the finish. After putting together the entire thing I realized I hadn’t folded the whipped cream into the marscapone before layering. I decided at the last minute to top the entire tiramisu off with the whipped cream, but for good measure and to give it some flavor I blended in a bit of the Kahlua. Between my “secret blend” for the remainder of the ladyfingers and the whipped cream I thnk I successfully got anyone who came within 2 feet of the dessert soused.

    By the way, my Aunt, who is Australian, specialty cookie every year is the Nanaimo bar. We fight over the last morsel as we put together our cookie tins. This was my boyfriend’s first year tasting one and I can say he is successfully hooked. Now I’ll never know if it was me, or the nanaimo bars!

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 14:40h, 23 December Reply

    Anonymous, I like your style. One of my mottos is “When in doubt, add booze.” I bet that Tiramisu was amazing.

    As for your boyfriend falling for the Nanaimo bars or you? A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Looks like you picked the right dish!

  • Jenn
    Posted at 15:21h, 23 December Reply

    Was there a solution to the crumbling issue with the Nanaimo Bars – if there was I missed it – but could really use it and a suggestion on what to do with the crumbs. However they maybe be great over ice cream.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:46h, 24 December Reply

      I don’t think anyone fully solved that. My own solution was to press the bottom into the pan really, really hard. I also changed the recipe. I no longer put coconut in the bottom layer and that seems to do the trick. I think the ratio of dry ingredient to wet was a bit off (at least in my family’s recipe). I also bake the bottom to help it set. Some versions aren’t baked.

      What to do with crumbly Nanaimo bars? Love your ice cream solution. They’d make a great parfait layered with ice cream and a drizzle of Bailey’s or chocolate liqueur. Either that or grind them into a really decadent milkshake / blizzard.

      If that doesn’t suit, can you squish them into Nanaimo balls and dip them in melted chocolate like a truffle? Seems a bit of work, but it might work.

      Have a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2013!

  • Jenn
    Posted at 12:50h, 24 December Reply

    We ended up putting the crumbs in another baking dish adding butter – using it as a crust for pumpkin pie. Will let you know how it turns out. Merry Christmas!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:56h, 02 January Reply

      Love this solution. Very creative. I had never imagined using it as a crust for pumpkin pie, but why not?! Thanks for sharing your solution.

  • Jenn
    Posted at 12:02h, 26 December Reply

    The Pumpkin Pie with the Nanaimo Bar crumbs as a crust turned out really well. Yes I’m surprised. Kids liked it also. Looks like I have a new pie crust.
    Happy Holidays!!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:57h, 02 January Reply

      Serendipity and its finest. Good to know chocolate and pumpkin play nicely together! Love this idea of using it as a pie crust. New dessert ideas form even as I type…

  • Jenn
    Posted at 23:41h, 03 January Reply


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