In spite of my Irish last name, St. Patrick’s Day never fails to sneak up on me. When March 17th hits I’m generally too preoccupied with emerging from my winter-induced depression to even start thinking about merriment. Does anyone remember these vibrant Matcha Cream Tarts from last year? The recipe I intended to be a St. Patty’s Day delight but I posted them, like, three days late? Yeah, not the best track record. But this year I came prepared with this Nanaimo Bar Stout Cake with Whiskey Ganache. True, I did mean to post it yesterday, but it’s here today and it is delicious.Jump to Recipe
Really, there is no need to limit this Nanaimo Bar Stout Cake to St. Patrick’s Day. It would be hands-down-delightful any day of the week. Bae is a chocolate cake connoisseur and after he tasted this cake, he requested it for his birthday…in December. Nothing like planning ahead. But this cake really is that good. It does give you that warm kind of tingle. But as with the Earl Grey Hot Chocolate, this cake comes with a warning. This dessert is over-the-top-rich.
Yes, this Nanaimo Bar Stout Cake is a bit much. It features layers of dark chocolate stout cake that seem to be simultaneously rich and airy. And sandwiched between these cakes is a golden spread of Nanaimo bar filling. All of this decadence is encased in a rich whiskey (yes, whiskey) dark chocolate ganache. Having trouble breathing yet? Well, hold on to your hats because we are not done. Now, as a final flourish, the cake is decorated with a small mountain (because, moderation) of mini Nanaimo bars. Yeah, you’re gonna a nap after this.
Okay, I’m not sure if we need this paragraph or not but I feel like I should explain what a Nanaimo bar is. Having lived in Canada my whole life, I’m not sure of the extent of their popularity outside of these borders. So, here’s the Nanaimo bar in a nutshell: a dense chocolate crust studded with graham cracker crumbs and a chopped nut of some variety, followed by a layer of buttercream flavored with custard powder, topped with chocolate. Yes, the filling sounds peculiar because it is. And no, the custard powder is not optional (Bird’s is the brand to use). You cannot make Nanaimo bar filling “gourmet”. Just embrace the processed ingredient and move on.
To me, the Nanaimo bar is a bake sale treat. I can’t remember a single instance when my mom or my grandmother whipped up a batch. But I clearly remember them at every spring fling and basketball fundraiser nestled between pastel-hued marshmallow squares and stacks of snickerdoodles. And because they cropped up so infrequently throughout my childhood, I have no homespun family recipe to refer to. Yes, I am woefully uneducated in the ways of the Nanaimo bar, particularly by Canadian standards.
If you want to learn how to make Nanaimo bars, I say you go straight to the source – Nanaimo, BC. But failing a plane ticket, the official website for the City of Nanaimo will do. Yes, the official website of the City of Nanaimo has a Nanaimo bar recipe on it and yes, I followed it very faithfully. Except I used walnuts in my bottom layer instead of almonds because I’m a rebel like that and it’s the only way I’ve had them. Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate how many times I used the word ‘Nanaimo’ in this paragraph? It’s got to be a record.
So, with Nanaimo bar recipe in hand, I was ready to tackle this monster of a cake. The first thing I did was bake the cake. I used this fabulous Guinness cake recipe I found on the blog Liv for Cake, but I didn’t use the pride of Ireland. I used the mild enthusiasm of the East End of Toronto – Left Field Brewery’s Blackburne Imperial Stout. To be honest, we used this brew in the cake because we found it a touch too sweet in the glass. But man, did it work like a charm in this Nanaimo Bar Stout Cake.
From there it was all a matter of proportions. I knew I didn’t want to saddle myself with a full tray of Nanaimo bars in order to have a few minis to top my cake with. So, I halved the recipe and made the bars in a loaf pan. Well, actually, I halved the bottom and top layers, I doubled the filling. In order to have a Nanaimo bar anything, you need that bright yellow filling and you need to feature it prominently. So, a double batch was more than necessary.
Now, for my favorite and most overwhelming part: the Whiskey Ganache. I love chocolate almost as much as I love whiskey. So, this ganache frosting had to be pitch-perfect and I’m happy to report it was. I followed the basic ganache ratios of chocolate to cream. I added a little butter and white corn syrup to stabilize the stuff. And just before I poured the heated cream mixture over the chocolate, I added a “healthy” splash of Redbreast Irish Whiskey. I added it at the end of the heating process because I didn’t want the alcohol to cook off. You’re going to know there’s whiskey in this ganache, so just prepare yourself for that. Personally, I’m always prepared (hoping) for that.
So, that’s the scoop on this Nanaimo Bar Stout Cake with Whiskey Ganache. I hope it makes many appearances beyond St. Patrick’s Day and it increases Nanaimo bar awareness because they really are so delicious. Have a great St. Patty’s Day and have a shot of whiskey for me…unless you’re underage.
Nanaimo Bar Stout Cake with Whiskey Ganache
Chocolate Stout Cake
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup high-quality cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup stout beer
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Nanaimo Bars: Layer 1
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg beaten
- 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/4 cup walnuts finely chopped
Nanaimo Bars: Layer 2
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 5 tbsp heavy cream
- 1/4 cup custard powder
- 3 cups icing sugar sifted
Nanaimo Bars: Layer 3
- 57g (2 oz) dark chocolate
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
Dark Chocolate Whiskey Ganache
- 400g (14 oz) dark chocolate finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup white corn syrup
- 2 tbsp Irish whiskey
Chocolate Stout Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line three 6″ cake pans. Set aside.
- Place the flour, sugars, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa in a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix the dry ingredients together on low for 2-3 minutes or until fully integrated.
- Pour the beer into a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Heat the beer until steam gathers on the surface. Remove from the heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the oil, buttermilk, and eggs. Slowly stream in the beer, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.
- With the mixer set to low, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix until a thin, cohesive batter forms. Divide the batter amongst the three prepared cake pans and transfer to the oven. Bake the cakes for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before wrapping them tightly and placing them in the refrigerator.
For the Nanaimo Bars
- Grease and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place the graham cracker crumbs, walnuts and coconut in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter for layer 1. Whisk in the sugar and cocoa and stir to combine. Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly stream in the egg, whisking constantly.
- Add the cocoa mixture to the coconut mixture and stir until a crumbly dough forms. Press the mixture into the loaf tin to form a thin, even layer. Set aside.
- For layer 2, place the softened butter into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the cream and custard powder and whisk to combine.
- Set the mixer to low and start adding the icing sugar a 1/4 cup at a time. Once the sugar is integrated, whip the mixture on high speed until well-combined.
- Spread a quarter of the mixture over top of your walnut, graham cracker layer and set aside. Transfer the remaining mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- For layer 3, melt the chocolate and the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool slightly.
- Pour the mixture over the second layer and transfer the finished Nanaimo bars to the fridge. Let set for 1 hour before slicing. Once sliced, return the bars to the fridge for another hour.
Dark Chocolate Whiskey Ganache
- Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Pour the cream and the corn syrup into a small saucepan. Add the butter and place over medium heat. Heat until the butter melts and steam gathers on the surface of the mixture. Don’t let it come to a boil.
- Once the cream mixture is hot, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the whiskey. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and let sit undisturbed for 1 minute.
- Using a whisk, slowly whisk the chocolate and cream mixture together until glossy, uniform ganache forms. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge. Let chill for at least an hour.
- Trim the chilled cakes if necessary prior to icing. Take the ganache and the remaining Nanaimo bar filling out of the fridge and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.
- Spread a little ganache on a cake board and place your first layer of cake on top. Pipe a border of ganache around the edge of the top of your first layer. Fill the center with the Nanaimo bar filling before placing your second layer on top. Repeat these steps with the second layer.
- Once your third layer is in place, use the ganache to create a crumb coat. Transfer the cake to the fridge and let chill for 15-30 minutes.
- Cover the cake with the remaining ganache. Dot the surface of the ganache with the remaining Nanaimo bar filling and smooth the surface to your taste.
- Top the finished cake with the mini Nanaimo bars you created earlier and either serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.