Julie Van Rosendaal knows how to turn something ugly into a very sweet ending.  

When she became the target of some vicious hate mail from trolls connected to the Freedom Convoy, she started to turn the DMs into blackout poetry—poems that are generated from redacting or blacking out words in a letter, and creating something new from it. “One of the DMs said, “You are a terrible human and you look like you don’t need any more cake,” says Van Rosendaal. “And I turned it into ‘you are human and you need cake.’” 

She shared the poem on Instagram with the caption, “This sounds like a cookbook,” and the response was a resounding: hell, yes.  

And so You Are Human and You Need Cake is Van Rosendaal’s third in a series of single-subject baking cookbooks that she’s released independently since 2019. (The first, Dirty Food, was her response to the so-called clean-eating movement. And the second, Cookies I Have Loved, remains the bestseller of all time for Calgary’s Owl’s Nest bookstore.) 

Author Julie Van Rosendaal (Credit: Jeremy Fokkens)

Cake features 36 of her favourite sweet recipes, organized by category of cake (and we’re so glad there are categories of cakes): morning cakes (coffee cakes, oatmeal cake with a streusel top, and more), chocolate cakes (you get the picture), cakes with fruit (ditto), fancy-ish cakes (yes!), and fall and winter cakes (think gingerbread, apple cakes).  

And yes—it also features her viral sensation Nanaimo Bar cake, which we’re thrilled to share the recipe for, below. And another couple of they-broke-the-internet throws to nostalgia: the Jos Louis cake, and her vegan take on the classic Deep and Delicious cake. 

Van Rosendaal is releasing You Are Human and You Need Cake exclusively through independent bookstores, including Hager Books in Vancouver and Pages in Calgary (and you can also order direct through her website), and it’s available as of today.

And if you want to get started on cake making right away, she’s generously shared her Nanaimo Bar Cake recipe here. 

Nanaimo Bar Cake

Julie Van Rosendaal’s Nanaimo Bar Cake Recipe

From You Are Human and You Need Cake

I adore Nanaimo bars. I came across the cake of my dreams at Sweet Relief Bakery in Calgary–a towering Nanaimo bar layer cake that is my dream birthday cake, and thought I’d attempt a simpler version at home.


1/2 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup cocoa

1/4 cup sugar (white or brown)

1 large egg or 2 Tbsp golden syrup or honey

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds



1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp fine salt

1 cup warm water or coffee

1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla



1 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup custard powder (such as Bird’s)

4 cups icing sugar, plus extra if needed

1/4-1/3 cup cream, milk or coconut milk



1 ⅓ cups chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips (6 oz/175 g)

1 cup whipping cream or coconut milk



Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line two 8×4-inch loaf pans with parchment.

In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter, cocoa, sugar and egg. Stir in the graham crumbs, coconut and nuts. Divide the mixture between the pans and press evenly into the bottom. (I find this easier with dampened hands.)

In the same bowl (no need to wash it) whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another bowl or measuring cup, stir together the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla, add to the dry ingredients and whisk just until well blended. Divide between the pans, pouring over the Nanaimo bar base, and bake for 50-60 minutes, until puffed, cracked and springy to the touch. Let cool completely while you make the frosting.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then add the custard powder, sugar and 1/4 cup of the cream and beat until you have a fluffy frosting, adding a bit more cream (or even a tablespoon of water) if needed. Once the cakes have cooled completely, spread with the frosting and put into the fridge until it firms up a bit.

To make the ganache, put the chocolate into a bowl, warm the cream on the stovetop or in the microwave and pour it over the chocolate, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Whisk until well blended and smooth–it will appear broken at first, but then will turn darker and have a smoother, more even consistency. Refrigerate until it has the consistency of pudding, and spoon or spread over each cake.

Makes 2 cakes; serves about 16.