When you think dessert in Canada what are some that come to mind?
Two popular Canadian treats that come that always come to my mind: Nanaimo bars and butter tarts.
I’ve done some fun research on both of these sweet treats, to find out where they originated. Nobody knows who exactly created the desserts, but they’ve been around for hundreds of years. And, they are absolutely delicious.
Nanaimo bars have been one of my favourite desserts since I was a kid. About 5 years ago, I searched for some recipes to make my own, and found out they are extremely easy to make, and they are no bake!
Some fun facts about Nanaimo Bars:
- Originated in Nanaimo, BC, “this creamy, chocolate-y treat’s origin is elusive, shrouded in mystery, and claimed by many as their own.”
- The earliest printed copy of the recipe was in 1953 in an Edith Adams cookbook
- Other unconfirmed references date the bar back to the 1930s, when it was said to be known locally as “chocolate fridge cake”
Butter tarts are also a well known Canadian favourite, and where I live, there’s a butter tart tour every summer, as well as competitions for who can make the best butter tart.
Some fun facts about butter tarts:
- No one is sure exactly where the recipe originated, but it is guessed the creation of the tarts were inspired by Quebec’s famous “sugar pie” back in the 1600s
- The first butter tart recipe was published in 1900 in Barrie, ON.
- “Four hundred years later, the butter tart has become the quintessential Canadian sweet treat. It was all the rage in the 1920s and 1930s, and it’s one of the few authentically Canadian recipes that exists on paper.”
Yesterday, I was flipping through a food magazine, and saw this picture. Someone had the brilliant idea to mix these two desserts together, and my mind was blown. Where do I find this creation!? It didn’t say… but I am close to it, because it’s in the butter tart competition that our local town holds every year.
So, let’s get to the creation of these classic Canadian desserts.
I am SO excited to share these recipes with you! Food excites me every day, and I get even more excited to share these creations. These two desserts are so perfect for Canada Day!
Soooo….which one do I start with? Such a tough choice.
Let’s go butter tart. This is a variation of a butter tart. I wanted to share a recipe with you that was easy to make, and didn’t take a lot of prep work. So instead of crafting an actual butter tart, I will introduce you to my gooey, sticky, soft maple pecan butter tart squares. Maple syrup is also a Canadian staple, so I thought why not put it in the squares!?
I cannot even begin to describe to you the smell that was coming from the oven when these were baking. And when I pulled them out to cool, my mouth was seriously watering. This was hands-down the best smelling dessert I’ve ever baked.
These squares were baked in two parts: first the crust needs to be pre-baked for 25 minutes in the oven. Once that is done and cooling, you can whip up the maple butter filling. I never realized how easy it is to craft a butter tart filling! All the ingredients get added in a bowl and whisked together until smooth. Then you pour it on top of the half-baked crust, and let it bake a little longer, until it looks like this….
Once they’re done baking, let them cool for 15 minutes on the counter, and then move them to finish cooling in the fridge. About 1-2 hours. They are the easiest to slice when they are cold.
Clean-up was a breeze, because I baked them in a dish with parchment paper (highly recommend) because once they’ve cooled, you can pop the whole thing out, and slice them easily. Since they are so sticky and gooey, I’m not sure how easy it would be to remove them from the pan without the parchment paper.
And once you slice them…
These disappeared SO fast. As in less than 24 hours fast. I will definitely be making another batch when I’m on holidays next week!
As for the Nanaimo bar, these disappear quick also. They are great because they can be stored in the fridge for about a week, and they also freeze well too. You will need lots of butter for this recipe!!! 🙂
The bars are made in three parts. First, you’ll want to line a baking dish with parchment paper. It keeps them from sticking, you can pull the whole dessert out when it’s ready, and easily get them sliced.
To tackle the base first – you’ll need butter, vanilla, egg, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, walnuts and cocoa powder. You’ll use a double boiler to melt down the butter with the egg, cocoa powder and vanilla. Then remove it from the heat, mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and walnuts, and pop the base in the fridge for an hour.
The custard filling is even easier to make than the base – all you need is more butter! Some milk, icing sugar, and custard powder. Whip it all together, and it’ll be like an icing consistency. Spread it all over the base and pop it back in the fridge!
Once the custard filling has hardened, the last layer is quick and easy. Pop semi-sweet chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl, and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring every time until it is melted. Pour it on the custard filling, and refrigerate another hour. And voila! You have these beauties…
These bars photographed so well, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them… it was SO much fun! And when I was editing, it was really hard to choose which ones would make this post. I could have put all 50 on there!
I hope you have a fantastic Canada Day weekend, I know I will 😉
And when you decide to tackle these desserts, let me know how they turn out!
Maple Pecan Butter Tart Squares
Inspired by the traditional Canadian butter tart, these squares are easy to make, and you won't be able to keep sticky fingers away!
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
- 1 cup pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, add the flour, icing sugar and salt. Mix together then add the cold butter. Cut the butter into the mixture until it crumbly.*
Press the mixture into the bottom of the lined baking dish, and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.
Make the butter tart "filling" while the crust is cooling. In a mixing bowl, add the brown sugar, cornstarch, baking powder and cinnamon and mix together. Add the eggs, maple syrup, butter, vanilla and lemon juice. Whisk all together until it is smooth and there's no lumps. Add the pecan pieces and stir one last time.
Pour the filling over top of the crust, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the edges are bubbling and there's only a slight jiggle in the middle of square when the dish is moved. Let cool for 25 minutes, then move to the fridge to finish cooling, one hour. Slice, and serve.
*the easiest way to get the butter to crumble into the mixture is grate it when it is cold, then cut it into the flour mixture. You can also use beaters or a food processor.
Baking times will vary, as all ovens are different.
These squares will keep for a week in the fridge... if they last that long!
They are easiest to slice when they are cold. The butter tart filling stays intact making them easier to cut.
A Canadian classic, these nanaimo bars are creamy, smooth, and melt in your mouth.
For the base:
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 egg slightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts optional
For the middle:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp custard powder I use Birds
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 3 tbsp milk
For the top:
- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 tsp butter
Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper. You will make this in layers, and refrigerate each layer for at least 1 hour.
To make the base, boil a pan of water, and place a heat-proof bowl on top for a double-boiler. Once the water is boiling, turn it down to a simmer. Add the butter, sugar and cocoa powder, vanilla and egg to the bowl. Whisk the ingredients together, and once the mixture is smooth and has thickened (2 mins), remove from the heat, and mix in the coconut, walnuts and graham cracker crumbs.
Press the mixture into the bottom of the lined pan, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the custard powder. Slowly add in the icing sugar, and add milk 1 tbsp at a time, until the mixture is smooth and creamy and spreadable. Spread the filling over the base layer, and place back in the fridge for another hour.
To make the top layer, add the chocolate and butter into a heat proof bowl, and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring every time, until the chocolate is melted. You could also use a double-boiler for this too. Once the chocolate is melted, spread on top of the middle layer, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until you're ready to serve.
Lift the square out of the pan, place on a cutting board, and slice up into squares. Some of the chocolate may break, but don't worry, it'll still be delicious! Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.
I can’t take credit for the brief history I provided of these desserts…