Nanaimo Bar Pops

My mom just had a big birthday (45!!).  I usually make ice-cream cake, but thought I'd change it up this year.  I know if said it here a million times, but I really don't care for cake.  Especially birthday cake. I have some theories about which desserts get eaten and I see cake only go when it is served on plates and force-handed to people.  I also really don't care for the cake-pop fad (mostly because of how I dislike cake no matter how it's disguised. And because I hate to be part of fads), but cute, tidy desserts do get eaten.  Also, July 20th is National Lollipop Day, though a minor holiday compared to the birthday of my mother.  

Nanaimo bars are a Canadian treat that my mom misses from her time up north and laments not being able to find in the states. It is a layered bar cookie made up of a chocolate crumb crust, custard buttercream filling and topped with a ganache.  I thought I'd ride the pop train and make them festive for the special occasion.  Of course, my klutziness turned my effort to make an elegant white chocolate drizzle on the pops into a white chocolate embellishment on my entirely black outfit.  Feel free to go wild with decorating, if you are talented that way.

Nanaimo Bar Pops

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup toasted and finely chopped almonds 

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder (Bird's is traditional and can be bought on Amazon or in import stores.  Jell-O vanilla pudding powder works fine)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 3-4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or candy melts
    white chocolate, extra coconut, almonds, or sprinkles for decorating
  • lollipop sticks

In a heavy saucepan over very low heat, combine 1/2 cup butter, white sugar and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Beat in the egg, stirring until thick, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds.  Press into rounds and place on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet.  Chill while making second layer.

For the middle layer, cream together 1/2 cup butter, heavy cream and custard powder until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over the rounds. Push lollipop sticks firmly in the center. Chill in the freezer until firm.

Melt the chocolate chips or candy melts either in the microwave at 50% power, stirring at 30 second intervals, or in a double boiler.  Quickly dip/spread the pops in the chocolate, decorate as desired, and return to wax paper to set.  Keep in the fridge if you aren't going to eat them soon.

Jell-O Shot Cupcakes

Did I ever tell you I won a bellyflop contest? My skin matched my watermelon-pattern swimsuit for hours afterwards, but I got a ribbon.  Even as I collect the alphabet behind my name, it remains one of my proudest achievements.  For a kid who was a lousy athlete and a clumsy dancer (though I did win 6th place in a horse show.  Out of 7 riders), it was wonderful to finally be the best at something.  Who cares if it was just a ridiculous 4th of July game.  4th of July always feels like an opportunity to do things completely differently than usual---with a slight sense that's how "real" Americans are supposed to do things.  Put up a flag, wear the tackiest stars-and-stripes jewelry, pretend that I'd been practicing baton twirling all year, chase around a watermelon coated in Crisco, picnic in the middle of the week with real picnic food (fried chicken and potato salad instead of brie and baguettes).  I love 4th of July because it feels like a big redwhiteandblue game of dress-up and it is my only chance to make trashy food from boxes and feel OK about it.

So I clipped this recipe from a junky housewife magazine.  I do not think it was targeted to us blue state womyn. (Alas, you can never get a farmer's tan if you have to wear a polar fleece all summer.)  I have been saving it for the moment I had enough energy to add eggs to a mix.  Both cupcakes and Jell-O shots are childish shortcuts to getting things done (no offense to cupcake enthusiasts).  Seemed like a fitting treat for the celebration of the U.S. of A.   I adapted the recipe to make it patriotic and better.

Red White and Blue Jell-O Shot Cupcakes

  • 1 box Pillsbury Stars and Stripes Funfetti® Cake Mix (you could also red and blue jimmies to white cake mix)
  • 1 C milk
  • 1/3 C melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Jell-O Filling
  • 1 pkg red Jell-O (cherry or strawberry.  I did cherry)
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 3/4 C rum, tequila, or vodka (OK grain alcohol would seem more American, but I went rum and here's why)

Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • blue food coloring
  • sprinkles

Bake the cupcakes as directed on the box, subbing in the butter for the oil, and the milk for the water, and adding in the lemon juice.  Bake in lined cupcake tins 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely.

 Mix the boiling water and the Jell-O in a bowl until completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.  Add the alcohol.  Let chill in the fridge until partially firm, about 35-45 minutes.

Using a knife, cut out a chunk (1 1/4" in diameter and 3/4" thick) from the top of each cupcake. Reserve pieces.  Spoon about 2 tsp of Jell-O into the indentation. Cover with reserved cake pieces. If you like, you can drizzle extra liquor over the cupcakes. Top with frosting and sprinkles. Chill in the fridge until set.


Beat butter, sugar and salt in a bowl until well blended.  Add vanilla, milk, and coloring and beat 3-5 more minutes until creamy.