From the focus of a Canada Post stamp, to being served at the White House in 2016, to the subject of a New York Times feature, we’re living in the golden age of the Nanaimo bar this year. And now McDonald’s Canada is joining the craze.
This week, the popular fast-food chain introduced its “Great Canadian Tastes” summer features, including a McFlurry inspired by the infamous no-bake treat named for the Vancouver Island city.
“Canadians love Nanaimo bars and our McFlurries, so the pairing was an obvious choice,” a spokesperson for McDonald’s Canada said in a statement.
The Nanaimo bar-inspired McFlurry includes coconut graham crumbs, chocolate chips, cocoa crumble and fudge sauce mixed with vanilla soft serve.
The McFlurry release is just the latest event to push Nanaimo bars into the national spotlight. Last month, Canada Post released a stamp series featuring iconic Canadian desserts, including Nanaimo’s pride. But many critics were quick to claim the stamp doesn’t portray an accurate ratio of layers.
In a statement following the stamps’ release, Canada Post said it wanted to “best represent the many adaptations and variations of each recipe that occur as professional bakers, chefs and those who love baking at home prepare them for customers friends and family.”
Sophia Maher is the general manager of the Nanaimo Museum, which chronicles the history of the Nanaimo bar in an exhibit. She says she there’s a reason the Nanaimo bar is getting so much attention lately.
“It’s so popular, it’s so tasty and it’s got our name attached to it which is so awesome,” she says. “For us to have such an iconic Canadian dessert with our name on it, it speaks to people.”
The original recipe
The recipe for what we now know as the Nanaimo bar was first published as the “chocolate square” in the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital Women’s Auxiliary Cookbook in 1952.
The name “Nanaimo bar” first appeared in print a year later in the Edith Adams Prize Cookbook, published by the Vancouver Sun. The recipe featured last month by the New York Times came from Nanaimo resident Joyce Hardcastle, who won a regional competition to find the best recipe in 1986.
Hardcastle’s recipe is traditional, but Maher says the base of a Nanaimo bar can be translated into many forms — even a McFlurry.
“The best Nanaimo bars, in my experience, have an around equal ratio of base-to-custard-filling."”
“In Nanaimo we’ve got [Nanaimo bar-flavoured] martinis, and massage oils and pedicures — there’s everything, it’s really fun,” she says.
Maher says she’s curious to see how Nanaimo residents respond to the new McFlurry, but she’s heard positive reviews so far.
“The best Nanaimo bars, in my experience, have an around equal ratio of base-to-custard-filling,” she said. “So as long as they’ve managed to get those two flavours in there, mixed with the chocolate, then that’s a win.”
Nanaimo bar McFlurries are available at McDonalds locations across Canada until June 14.