Watch our Education Coordinator attempt to make this local dessert:
I love it when communities have some kind of food – be it baked good or otherwise – that they claim as their own. Often several towns or villages will claim the same dish, that’s fine. What I enjoy is the story. The local baker who accidently dropped a bag of *insert surprising ingredient* into the cake batter. Or the supply shortage that caused a cook at an event to get creative. The stories, the heritage – that’s what makes it special, and that’s what we want to share in this exhibit.
Here in Sidney BC, we’re lucky enough to have a dessert that is undisputedly ours. If you haven’t heard of it yet, then let me be the first to introduce you to the Sidney Slice. It’s kind of like a Nanaimo Bar, but better (according to Museum staff – we recognize this will be disputed).
The Sidney Slice was invented in 1988 by Lorraine Heryet – but before we dig into the heritage, let me tell you my Sidney Slice story. If you’ve spent some time with us you know that everyone at the Sidney Museum absolutely loves baked goods – it isn’t a job requirement, but we’ve yet to hire someone who “isn’t a dessert person.” So when I started planning this project, to share stories from Canadian food history, of course desserts were on our brains (the idea might have come to me after eating a really good square…). The director of our Museum, Alyssa Gerwing, mentioned that I should look up the Sidney Slice, a dessert she had heard mentioned by the wife of the recently retired Museum executive director. I had never heard of this before, but of course I was interested. A dessert for the town that also happens to share my name? I wanted one.
I started my research but I couldn’t find much on it. I had a recipe that was sent to me from the Museum’s go-to baker, and I found a tweet that mentioned the creator’s name, but no information on the dessert itself or its story. I admit I was getting frustrated. But I work in history; if there is one thing we know how to do it’s dig for information, and Sidney’s a small town. So simply by asking around we actually got ahold of the inventor of the Sidney Slice. To make matters even more exciting, a few days later, Lorraine Heryet herself came by the Museum to chat and share a few of these desserts, because as she says, you really have to try one to know what we’re talking about.
Heryet’s Sidney Slice has three layers. There is a shortbread base, a coconut and nut filling, and a creamy frosted top with a chocolate drizzle. According to Heryet she is always generous with the chocolate. The reviews from the staff were all positive. The bars are beautiful, delicious, and very sweet.. Now I do have a disclosure to make: I don’t like coconut, I never have. Surprisingly this fact has come up a lot since I moved to British Columbia. It’s in so much food out here! Maybe people in BC just really like coconut? Anyway I had some concerns about giving this dessert a try, but even I enjoyed it.
This sweet treat, now over thirty years old, has earned the right to be an official part of our town’s heritage. In 1988 Lorraine Heryet entered the recipe in a contest held by Peninsula Community Services (now Beacon Community Services). The winner would receive a prize and the winning dessert would be forever known as the “Sidney Slice.” Heryet’s entry was inspired by the Nanaimo bar, but she wanted to make something a bit different and, on April 16, 1988 her delicious concoction beat out sixteen other recipes and officially became the Sidney Slice.
Over the years the slice has lost some popularity, but that doesn’t mean it’s been forgotten. Many folks in the community know all about this slice, and Heryet has even had people from as far away as Nova Scotia write to her asking about the recipe.
Today, Heryet is an active artist, community member and member of the Saanich Peninsula Arts and Crafts Society, and nothing would make her happier than more people knowing and making this recipe. She would love to see it at the market, bakeries and restaurants of Sidney, or even just made in your own homes. So give it a try yourself, and let us know what you think!
Make them yourself! Be sure to post on social media if you do, and tag us:
Recipe courtesy of Lorraine Heryet
- 1 ¼ cup flour
- ½ cup cold butter or margarine
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Mix together flour and sugar in a large bowl, then using a cheese grater, grate the butter into the flour mixture. Crumble together with your fingers. Pat the mixture into the prepared pan but do not smooth the top of the mixture – this will help the filling to stick later. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- Dash of salt
While the bottom layer is baking, beat two eggs into a large bowl, then mix in the vanilla, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, nuts and coconut. Pour the mixture into the pan after the bottom layer has baked, but is still hot. Put back into the over for another 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
- ½ cup softened butter
- 1 ½ cups icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tbls water
Cream together all ingredients until fluffy. Spread over the completely cooled base.
- 2 – 4oz of semi-sweet chocolate*
- 1 tsp butter
Melt together and drizzle generously over the icing. Before the chocolate is set, cut into squares, trimming the edges for a more polished look. Set in the fridge to firm.
This recipe can easily be doubled and freezes very well.
*be generous – people love chocolate!