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Thursday
Oct252007

Cakewalk in Victoria, BC

When we decided to spend some time in adorable, very British-y Victoria, British Columbia, naturally bakeries were on the agenda. Due to Victoria’s proximity to Nanaimo, we decided to pay homage to the Nanaimo bar (a no-bake bar with a coconut / chocolate crust, a buttery, custardy middle section and a stiff-but-not-hard chocolate topping which is said to have originated in the area), tasting several of the local varieties, which make up Part 1 of the Cakewalk in Victoria. But dare we say that one cannot live on Nanaimos alone? Well, they do say that variety is the spice of life, so we branched out to taste some of the other local bakeries; Part 2 reflects what else we spied during our all-too-brief stay in this charming coastal city.

Cakewalk in Victoria, Part 1: IN SEARCH OF NANAIMO PERFECTION 

Disclaimer: At the below establishments, unless otherwise noted, we only tasted Nanaimo bars and cannot speak for the quality or taste of their other baked goods. In some cases the bars were made in-house and some were from wholesalers, but for this feature we focused more on where to buy the ones that tasted best!

Green Cuisine: Green Cuisine is a fairly unassuming café (in the bottom level of a shopping complex) featuring a full vegan menu. And while by all accounts the savories are quite good, we had a sweeter target in mind. The vegan "Not-Nanaimo" was good... but perhaps because it looked so much like the typical Nanaimo bar, we couldn't help but expect something else when we bit into it. We really wanted to like this one, but unfortunately, it just fell a little flat compared to its creamy, dreamy, dairy counterparts. (Grade: B-) 560 Johnson St., #5; online at greencuisine.com.

Market On Yates: This place made us nostalgic for the old Larry's Markets in Seattle; sort of granola-y and bearing a circa-1989 aesthetic. But more importantly, they had a fully stocked bakery case, and their Nanaimo bar held its own: a nice layer of custard between a hard (but not so hard it cracked) chocolate top layer and a chewy, soft crust on the bottom layer. We'd go back. (Grade: B) 903 Yates St.; online at marketonyates.com. 

Olde Time Deli: Surprisingly, this touristy café with just-OK lunch items ended up having the best Nanaimo bar we tried. The custard was smooth, rich and creamy; the chocolate top layer was soft and fresh, and the bottom layer was a mix between crust and cake; chewy without crumbling apart when you bit into it. Heaven. (Grade: A) 1009 Government St.

The Nanaimo that Got Away: 

Bond Bond Bakery: Oh, it looked good: upon looking inside we were taunted by the presence of a "Blonde Nanaimo" siren calling to us from beyond the darkened, closed doors...they're closed on Sundays. Sigh. If anyone has been here, please comment! (Grade: Incomplete) 1010 Blanshard St.

Cakewalk in Victoria, Part 2: THE BEST OF THE REST 

No Nanaimos at these establishments, but plenty of other sweet treats!

Bubby Rose's Bakery: We cannot recommend this place highly enough. Everything we tried was fresh, comfortingly homemade, and wonderful: from the crusty-but-soft breads to perfect strawberry rhubarb tarts with a flaky, golden-buttery crust, to the beautiful cupcakes, we ended up wishing we were staying several more days in Victoria. Also note: although we didn't
get a chance to try them, ourselves, we hear their cinnamon rolls are the best in town! Two locations: 313 Cook St., Cook Street Village; we went to 1022 Cook St. (near Fort St.).


COBS Bread: This place looked suspiciously chain-y, but also very inviting with its fogged-up windows and yeasty, sugary smell on a cold day, so we went in for an iced pumpkin scone, which was hot, just-frosted, spicy and surprisingly good. Upon later review on the internet, we found that while it is a franchise chain, the scones' ingredients were pretty normal, and not chock-full of the nasty chemicals that some chains just love to use. And you know what? Chain or not, the scone was really good. 140A - 911 Yates St.

 


Murchie's Tea and Coffee, LTD: We were told before our trip that this place was touristy but good and likely to have a Nanaimo bar. Well, no nanaimos here but we were glad we went nonetheless: their scones and biscuits were amazingly rich and creamy, the perfect balance of sweet and savory; their slightly French-influenced tarts and cakes were drool-worthy. They have six locations throughout Canada; one of their two commercial kitchens is right in Victoria. 1110 Government St.; online at murchies.com.

Rhineland Bakery: This place looks old-school, and it is: they've been serving up sweets since 1956. We like to imagine that they taste similar now to how they did then. The cakes seemed to have crisco-type frosting, which is not necessarily bad (but it can be); but what we really went for here were the cookies, which were rich, crunchy and buttery. 730 Fort St.

This post owes much thanks to blogger buddy ReTorte for all of her great Victoria bakery recommendations and Nanaimo bar feedback!

Additionally, for those who are curious about a Nanaimo Bar recipe, it's readily available at the City of Nanaimo website: click here or see below!

NANAIMO BAR RECIPE

 

Bottom Layer
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp. cocoa
    1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
  • ½ c. finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup coconut

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

 

Reader Comments (11)

Wow, there were some places here I would never have thought of trying, like Green Cuisine. Never heard of them. There are some things you just shouldn't mess around with - and I believe Nanaimo Bars are one of those things. I have heard awesome things about Bubby Rose's and almost worked for them once. COBS is a chain; I think that the one you went to is the second one in Victoria, the original one being in Oak Bay on Oak Bay Ave. There are several locations in the Lower Mainland. They make amazing cinnamon buns! They have decent product in general, actually.

Glad you had a good time and got to try so many goodies! That's what it's all about!

October 25 | Unregistered CommenterWandering Coyote

I am so happy to discover your blog. I was so into wedding plans lately that I didn't have time to read blogs. I read a lot of your posts and am inspired to bake.

October 26 | Unregistered Commentersavvy savorer

i'm totally trying the recipe.

and having a "preview honeymoon." that is the best idea ever.

October 26 | Unregistered Commentermoonrat

I'm wondering how it is that I've never eaten one of those bars. Clearly, I've been missing out!

October 26 | Unregistered Commentersurcie

Well, Mr and Mrs Cakespy, congratulations on your honeymoon preview! Sounds like a wonderful trip to take. Thanks for the recipe!

October 27 | Unregistered CommenterZen Chef

Thanks for the kind words and congratulations. Mr. Cakespy used up all of his vacation ("Proper honeymoon") time going on tour with his band, but I hold him he had to give me some small trip to hold me over! :-) And all the better to have it chock full of baked goods.

October 28 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Thanks for sharing our wonderful bars with the world! One alternate version: my mom has always makes these with walnuts instead of almonds. You use the "official" recipe as picked by the mayor in 1985 but most cooks in BC use recipes that pre-date that contest. I am sure my mom's version goes way back. And, her bars had a featured place during the dessert time at my own wedding! My aunt-in-law from Seattle is still talking about them seven years later! :-)

You have a great site!

November 29 | Unregistered CommenterCyn

Cyn, send me the recipe! We're in search of NANAIMO PERFECTION!!!

Thank you for finding us by the way ;-)

November 29 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Like Cyn, my mom's version of the Nanaimo Bar has walnuts instead of almonds. Many Canadian ladies and housewives in the 1980s used to rely heavily on a series of books called "The Best Of Bridge", written by well-coiffed oil baron's wives from Calgary, Alberta. I'm quite sure my mom's Nanaimo Bars came from this book too! Sometimes my mom would add some peppermint extract and green food color to make these more "festive!"

First Layer

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

(Combine ingredients and pat into a 9 inch square ungreased pan. Chill 1/2 hour)

Second Layer

2 cups icing sugar
14 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup cream or milk
2 tbsp custard powder

(Beat all ingredients until smooth and fluffy. Spread carefully on top of first layer)

Third Layer

3- 1 ounce chocolate squares (sweet or semisweet)
1/4 cup Butter

(Melt chocolate and butter together. Spread over second layer and chill! Cut in small bars-- very rich and very delicious)

August 31 | Unregistered Commenterlyndsay

Lyndsay, that is awesome!! Thank you for sharing this version with us! I love the idea of adding some peppermint and food coloring to make them holiday-ready. I'm not scared of green foods, especially when they're sweet!

August 31 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

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August 3 | Unregistered Commenterwasai
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