What are Nanaimo bars? Prince Harry and Meghan Markle recently enjoyed this Canadian treat

Nanaimo bars are quintessentially Canadian and it turns out the royals may love them, too.
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/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

Is it possible that Canada's most iconic layered dessert had a role to play in the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's decision to move to North America?

Probably not, but Nanaimo bars are having an international moment thanks a recent royal engagement.

On Jan. 7, a day before announcing their decision to step down as senior members of the royal family, Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle attended a reception at Canada House. The visit, which followed the couple's visit to Vancouver, British Colombia, during Christmas, included a sit-down with Canadian diplomats and Canada's High Commissioner to the U.K. Janice Charette over tea and dessert.

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One of the desserts featured was an assortment of Nanaimo bars. While they're basically a national treasure in Canada, many Americans might be scratching their heads over what's really in the chocolate treats.

Did Canadian diplomats appeal to the royals' sweet tooth with their country's iconic dessert, pictured here during their visit to Canada House. Getty Images

According to Lenore Newman, Canada research chair for food security and environment, Nanaimo bars are like "the Kardashians of Canadian foods.They're famous for being famous."

The bars were first developed in the late 1940s in Nanaimo, an island off the coast of Vancouver, by women at the Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary. They added custard and chocolate layers to a cake-like filling, and thus the beautifully layered treat was born.

According to CBC Ottawa, the first time the treats were officially identified as "Nanaimo Bars" was on April 11, 1953 as a "Reader's Recipe of the Day" in the Vancouver Sun.

Nanaimo bars are a no-bake dessert from Nanaimo, British Columbia, that have become one of Canada's most famous treats.Brian Kennedy / Getty Images

The no-bake recipe, which has largely remained the same since it was first developed, starts with a half cup of butter mixed with graham cracker crumbs, cocoa, sugar, shredded coconut and nuts for the first layer. The second layer is a custard filling with another half cup of butter. The final layer is chocolate ganache poured on top; then the whole tray is chilled in the fridge for a few hours before being sliced into square bars.

Some tweeters joked that they, too, would move to Canada after eating the decadent sweets.

However delicious the bars may be, former chef to the royal family Darren McGrady dismissed speculations that Harry was beckoned away from his royal position just to indulge in Canadian specialties like Nanaimo bars, poutine, moose, butter tarts and maple syrup.

"Prince Harry is no stranger to Nanaimo bars. I used to make them (the Buckingham Palace recipe we got when The Queen visited Canada in 1983) for him and William at Kensington Palace when they had friends over," McGrady wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

The classic Canadian dessert may not have really lured Harry and the Duchess of Sussex away from the U.K., but at least the royal couple will easily be able indulge in one of the prince's favorite childhood desserts when they officially move across the pond.