Every once in a while I get a craving for a very specific dessert and Nanaimo bars are often at the top of my list.
Nanaimo bars are a treat named after a city in British Columbia (Canada) and consist of a crumb base topped with a vanilla custard-flavored icing and covered with a solid layer of chocolate. They’re absolutely delicious but so sweet you can only eat them once in a while. They also come with an additional problem: you can’t serve them for someone’s birthday as that solid chocolate layer makes inserting a candle into the bars impossible. It is due to the latter problem that I came up with this recipe.
These cupcakes take just as much time as making regular Nanaimo bars from scratch but they’re a bit more moist and easier to bite into due to the cake base. The trick is to use a cake mix, which is idiot-proof and delicious.
Here’s How You Make Them
Difficulty Level: Medium
Total Prep and Cook time: 30 Minutes
1 Package of Chocolate Cake Mix – Prepared as per the instructions on the box in a muffin pan lined with muffin liners (available in grocery, dollar, and art supplies’ stores)
¼ Cup Melted Dark Chocolate
¼ Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
2 Tablespoons of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Crushed Dry Roasted Nuts - Optional
½ a Teaspoon + 1 Pinch of Salt – Divided
3 Cups of Icing aka Powdered Sugar
4 Tablespoons of Instant Vanilla Pudding Powder - This gives the frosting it's custard flavor
½ Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
½ Cup of Softened Butter
About 4 Tablespoons of Milk, divided – ideally full fat Cow’s Milk
2 Mixing Bowls
1 Frying Pan
1 Rubber Spatula
1 Wire Whisk or Electric Hand Mixer
1 Regular Bowl
2 Regular Spoons
In the first mixing bowl, prep the cake mix according to the directions on the package.
Put the batter evenly into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners and stick in the oven to bake. The cake mix box will have instructions for how long the batter will need if cooked in a muffin pan.
While the cupcakes are baking, mix the softened butter, ½ Teaspoon of Salt, Vanilla Pudding Powder, Vanilla Extract, and half of the Icing Sugar together using a wire whisk or electric hand mixer.
Add 2 Tablespoons of Milk and whisk well.
Add the remaining icing sugar and mix until well combined. If the frosting seems too thick, add an additional 2 Tablespoons of milk and mix well.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
When the cupcakes are done, take them out of the oven and cool them completely.
In an ungreased frying pan on medium heat, dump in the shredded coconut and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula until some of the coconut is a pale golden brown.
Scrape the coconut into a regular bowl and add the Cocoa, the pinch of Salt, Brown Sugar, and Crushed Nuts (if using).
When the cupcakes are cool, smear a thick layer of the Vanilla frosting on each cupcake using a butter knife.
Drizzle some melted dark chocolate on top of each one with a spoon.
Sprinkle a generous amount of the coconut and cocoa mixture on top and serve!
-Samantha R. Gold
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