If you’ve known me for a hot minute you know that I have a deep love (some might say obsession) with Nanaimo Bars. We are taking a confectionary soul mate kind of love here. They get me. When I’ve had a long day, nothing comforts me like a Nanaimo Bar. When I hit a milestone and need to celebrate, yep you guessed it, Nanaimo Bars are right there cheering me on. They’re my ride-or-die. My rock. My steady. My one true love. A Nanaimo Bar cake was destiny!
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What Is A Nanaimo Bar?
But let’s back it up here for a moment, especially for my non-Canadian friends. Nanaimo bars are a classic Canadian no-bake dessert bar that consists of 3 layers. The bottom is a crunchy chocolate crumb, coconut, and nut combination. The middle (and my personal favourite part) is creamy custard buttercream. The top is a thin layer of decadent chocolate ganache. There you have it: a Nanaimo Bar!
What’s In A Nanaimo Bar Cake?
About two years ago I decided to honour this delicious little dessert bar of total tastiness by turning it into a cake and it quickly became my signature cake flavour. Decadent layers of chocolate cake baked onto a chocolate coconut crumb base and slathered up in custard buttercream. They were finished off with a chocolate ganache drip and those oh-so-fabulous Nanaimo Bars. Cake heaven, folks. Pure cake heaven!
Nanaimo Bar Cake
I could sit here and talk about Nanaimo Bars all day, but I feel you’d much rather eat them than read about them, so let’s do that. I have my Nanaimo Bar recipe here if you want to make these first and use them on top of your cake for decor as I did. It seems only natural, right?! But honestly, I won’t judge you if you want to save that step and grab a tray of store-bought ones for decoration. I’ll leave the decision up to you.
What I do insist on though is making this cake STAT. Like not next week, or Christmas, or uncle Joe’s birthday. No. I’m talking about right now. ASAP people! And then come back here and tell me how much you too now adore Nanaimo Bars.
The most amazing Nanaimo Bar cake recipe! Rich decadent chocolate cake layers baked on top of a Nanaimo Bar crust full of coconut and cashews. Covered in a whipped custard buttercream frosting and topped with even more Nanaimo Bars!
Spray and parchment line two 8-inch round cake pans.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the crust ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
Divide mixture into the 2 prepared cake pans and very firmly press down evenly.
Set aside while mixing cake batter.
CHOCOLATE CAKE INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add all the dry ingredients to the stand mixer and give a quick whisk together.
Add the vegetable oil, hot coffee, and vanilla extract and whisk until fully incorporated.
Add the vinegar and mix until fully incorporated being careful not to overmix.
Divide and pour the batter evenly between the two cake pans and right on top of the prepared cake crust and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then invert on a cooling rack to fully cool. Remove the parchment paper.
CUSTARD BUTTERCREAM INSTRUCTIONS:
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter on high speed with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. This should take approximately 5 minutes.
Add the icing sugar, custard powder, salt, and vanilla extract and mix on low until combined.
Add in the yellow food coloring if desired. I add a few drops to saturate the natural yellow color of the custard powder.
Turn the mixer up to medium and let mix for 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl when necessary.
CHOCOLATE GANACHE DRIP INSTRUCTIONS:
In a microwave-safe bowl heat the chocolate and milk in 30-second intervals until fully melted and smooth. Stir between each interval.
Depending on the kind of dairy-free milk, the ganache may require a touch more milk to thin or a few more pieces of chocolate to thicken. *I always test my chocolate ganache drips over the edge of the kitchen sink before applying it to a cake to check the consistency.
Place one leveled layer of chocolate cake on a cake board or plate. Top with approximately 2 cups of custard buttercream.
Repeat with the remaining layer and apply a thin coat of buttercream all over the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
I left the cake as is at this point for a semi-naked look but should you want to cover the cake completely with another layer of buttercream for a smoother more polished look do so now.
On a well-chilled cake, with a spoon or a piping bag, drip the chocolate ganache over the edges of the cake and put it back in the refrigerator.
Decorate as you please. I placed Nanaimo Bars around the top border and used a Wilton 1M tip to pipe buttercream swirls between each Nanaimo Bar. Enjoy.
My wife made this cake for my birthday and wow! It was everything I could have wanted in a Nanaimo bar cake!
I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! Happy belated birthday too.
My daughter and I baked this last weekend. it didn’t look like yours but it sure was tasty!
I always say that taste is what truly matters! Love that you baked this with your daughter.
Hi Katie! Can you make this into a 3- 8 inch layer cake? Or a 4-6inch layer cake?
Hi Priscilla, I have never tested it with those sizes but I would be apt to say yes, both options should work fine. The baking time will decrease.
I made this cake for my Nanaimo bar loving husband for our anniversary! It was so much fun to make, the cake turned out perfectly. I substituted the cashews for more coconut as my husband is allergic to cashews. Tastes so great and will definitely make again! Can’t wait to try more of these recipes!
I love that you made this cake for your anniversary! I, too, am a Nanaimo Bar fiend!
Hello – my son’s also a Nanaimo bar fan. Looking to make the cake for his birthday. Curious why the hot coffee – I don’t recall Nanaimo bars having a coffee flavour. Thx.
Hi Ange, you won’t taste the coffee…I promise. Coffee helps deepen the chocolate flavor of the cake. It creates a wonderfully rich and robust chocolate cake. That said, if you don’t want to use coffee no sweat…replace it with hot milk.
This was my first time having a nanaimo bar and the bars themselves are amazing, let alone the whole cake! Where have they been all my life?!
Right?! I will never tire of Nanaimo Bars! I’m so glad you gave this cake recipe a shot!
My daughter requested this cake and it did not disapoint. I restrained myself from licking my plate clean.
She has great taste! Thanks for baking this one up and sharing. It’s my favorite!
Seriously could not be better. If you love Nanaimo bars (or are curious to try them) I highly suggest you make this cake! The crumb on the bottom of the cake layers was to die for, and paired so well with the custard buttercream. I personally added a little more of the custard powder to suit my taste. Hands down, no question, will make this recipe again.
You are the sweetest of the sweet Katie. I could probably eat a slice of this cake every single day! Thank you for taking the time to bake it up.
Going to make this for Canada Day. Can I use regular butter and dairy ingredients?
You bet you can! The chocolate ganache drip might need a teeny splash more regular milk as it tends to be thicker than almond milk. I hope you love it!
Hi Katie this recipe looks delicious and just wondering when I click on the Naomi bar’s recipe it says page not found?? Would really like your Naimo recipe Thanks
Hi Carm, thank you SO much for letting me know this. Here’s my nanaimo bar recipe and I’ve gone back in to correct the link. I would never have known so I really appreciate it.
I could eat this cake for the rest of my life.
Haha I definitely could too!
Literally, the yummiest cake I’ve ever eaten.
That literally makes my heart smile. I am so thrilled you tried and loved this cake Ilea.
I finally made this cake and it did not disappoint me or my family.
Well I am so glad you did finally make this one. It’s one of my personal favs!
My new favorite cake. Worth every single calorie.
Nanaimo bar anything and everything, in my book, are always worth every single calorie!
Worth every minute of baking this cake up. Homerun Katie!
Now I’m craving this exact cake Darci. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
Delicious cake!! I made this for my son’s 30th Birthday party. Great reviews by all !!
I’m so glad you all enjoyed this one. Thanks, Vivian.
I made this cake for my birthday last year and while I messed up on the ingredients (😂😂) it was still AMAZING! Her recipe for Naniamo bars is so good with the cashews and coconut. I could eat that base just by itself allll the time. You must try this cake, you won’t regret it!
Aw, thank you, Amanda. I could totally eat the base layer by the spoonful too. No judgement from me. 😉
Is there a gluten free version of this recipe?
This can easily be made gluten-free. Swap the regular flour for gluten-free flour (make sure it has xanthan gum) and use gluten-free chocolate cookie crumbs. Voila…gluten-free!
Hi! This cake looks amazing. Could you make the icing without shortening, maybe use all butter?
Yes, you absolutely can use all butter Victoria.
This was the perfect cake! It does take a bit more time with all the layers, but well worth it! I will definitely make this one again.
Agreed. Worth that bit of extra time for nanaimo bar yum 😉 Thanks for sharing Marit.
This cake was so delicious! I’ve made it twice now and everyone who tried some loved it. Great recipe!
My all-time favorite cake! I’m thrilled you’ve made it twice now!
I made this cake for a friend. She received so many compliments about the taste and looks of the cake. It’s a great recipe.
This makes me wanna jump for joy! Thanks for sharing Heather.