Nanaimo Bars: The sweetest slice of Canadiana

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Nanaimo bars have to be Canada's sweetest contribution to the world of food... like, literally.

So, if you're ever craving sugar, and I mean really craving sugar, this recipe is here for you!

Nanaimo bars

Makes 16 bars

For the bottom layer:
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup desiccated coconut

For the filling:
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the topping:
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Prepare a 9x9-inch pan by lining it with parchment paper.

For the bottom layer, set a large heatproof bowl over 1-inch of simmering water and add in the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Melt the mixture together until fully combined.  Beat in the egg and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 30­­–45 seconds.  Remove the bowl from the heat and add in the graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, and coconut.  Press this into the bottom of your prepared pan and pop it in the fridge to chill.

For the filling, in a medium bowl, beat together the butter and custard powder.  Slowly add in the icing sugar followed by the milk, vanilla, and salt.  Continue to beat until well combined and light and fluffy.  Spread the filling in an even layer over the base and pop it back in the fridge to allow it to continue to chill.

For the topping, either in a double boiler or in the microwave, melt together the chocolate chips, butter, and salt.  Stir well to combine and allow it to cool just slightly.  Pour the topping over the custard layer and spread into an even layer.  Pop the whole pan back into the fridge to cool completely.  To cut, use a very sharp warm knife and prepare for a sugar crash in approximately 2 hours!

Puppies and Kitties and Cupcakes! Oh my!

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes

If you had of asked me a month ago if there was a way to make cupcakes even sweeter and more perfectly wonderful than they already are, I would have scoffed, shaken my head, and said attempted to utter the word “naaaahhh” through a giant mouthful of fluffy cake and rich, silky buttercream.

But boy, oh boy, was I ever wrong!  This year, I am so honoured to have been asked by the Ontario SPCA to be their champion for National Cupcake Day™!  Now in its sixth year, the nation-wide annual campaign runs throughout January and February, culminating on Monday, February 26 – the sweetest day of the year! 

In 2017, animal lovers across Canada raised over $600,000 in support of their local animal welfare societies and, this year, I’m hoping to help them surpass that number and add to the outstanding $2.45 million raised to date!

To get involved and “bake a difference,” visit to register to host a Cupcake Day Party on a date that’s convenient for you.  Plan your National Cupcake Day™ Party for home, work, school or anywhere you think people would enjoy eating cupcakes (so, literally anywhere!).

Invite your guests to donate through to help raise critically-needed funds for animals that are abused, abandoned, neglected or no longer wanted.  Proceeds from National Cupcake Day™ help the Ontario SPCA support our furry friends, big and small, who have been abused, abandoned, or are in need of help.

If you're in need of a little cupcake-y inspiration, give these little babies a try!  They are super chocolatey, rich, crazy simple, and oh-so perfect for any and all cupcake and kitty/puppy lovers!

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 24 large cupcakes (or 36 regular)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups good quality cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 350F and line two or three 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Give it a bit of a stir to combine and set aside.

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the sugar and oil together for 1 minute.  Add the eggs in one at time, beating well after each addition and continuing to beat for 2 minutes or until the mixture looks a little lighter in colour.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the vanilla extract and espresso powder.  Add that to the buttermilk and set aside.

When the oil and sugar mixture is nicely creamed, add approximately a third of the dry ingredients and beat together until almost combined.  Add in half of the buttermilk mixture and, again, beat just until almost combined.  Continue with this wet/dry method, ending with the last third of the dry ingredients.  Be careful not to over mix after the last addition!  Over mixing will lead to peaked and potentially cracked cupcakes!

Scoop about ¼ cup of batter into each little cupcake liner and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 20–25 minutes.  While cooling, whip up a batch of chocolate buttercream and get ready to decorate to your heart's content!


Chocolate Buttercream

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup good quality cocoa powder
5 cups icing sugar
½–¾ cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon espresso powder
½­­–1 teaspoon kosher salt

Beat together the butter and cocoa powder and gradually add in the icing sugar.  The mixture will be a little crumbly but that’s where the whipping cream comes in!  With the mixer running, slowly stream in the whipping cream, starting with ½ cup then increasing to ¾ cup if necessary.

In a small bowl, combine the vanilla extract with the espresso powder and add it to the buttercream mixture.  Beat in the salt and use immediately.

Magic Chocolate Shell: It's like if Honeydukes were an ice cream shop

Magic Chocolate Shell

Magic Chocolate Shell

The easiest thing to make to bring your ice cream to the next level.

Now, if only Hagrid would barge on into my kitchen and proclaim "You're a wizard, Mary."

Magic Chocolate Shell

1 cup chocolate chips, milk or semi-sweet
2 tablespoons coconut oil

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil.  Microwave, in 15 second intervals, until completely melted.

Allow the chocolate shell mixture to cool slightly before dunking or pouring over ice cream.