I’ve always had a huge soft spot for wagon wheels. Sadly those huge chocolate-y jammy biscuity discs so nostalgically and iconically reminiscent of many an Australian childhood seem to have shrunk in size. They were my all time favourite treat growing up. I well remember the race to the school tuckshop at morning recess time, silver coin in hand with the eager anticipation of the very first bite. In those days wagon wheels were enormous, so much bigger than my hand.
Of course good old fashioned country bakeries, the kind we so often encounter on our road trips have always made their very generous versions of this iconic bake. OK I have been sprung, that’s one reason why I always insist on taking those roads less travelled. Happily now, for my long suffering family, wagon wheels can also occasionally be found on the menu at trendy inner city cafes.
Years ago, after yet another round of listening to my seemingly endless lamentations on the amazing shrinking wagon wheel, a friend generously shared with me her “secret” family recipe for wagon wheel slice. So special and deliciously easy to make. A base of soft buttery shortbread, covered with a smear of tangy raspberry jam, a layer of soft homemade marshmallow and a melted chocolate topping. The beauty of the slice is that it can be made as a slab, set in the fridge and portioned into squares as needed. So much easier to bake and assemble than individual biscuits.
Of course, as is my nature, over time I’ve fiddled with the original recipe. My idea of the perfect wagon wheel has always included a very generous billowing layer of fluffy marshmallow. It’s always been my favourite element. This time around I went in for the overkill. Piled sky high layers into a smaller tin, and once set used a deep, well greased food preparation ring to stamp out circles. After all the original wagon wheels were round not square. And yes these were enormous, a fitting tribute to my childhood recollections. But I will add, they were easily and quickly scoffed, by an enthusiastic band of taste testers, as every good wagon wheel should.
Wagon Wheel Slice
For the Shortbread Base
170g unsalted butter cubed
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
2 ¼ cups plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
For the Jam Layer
¾ cup raspberry jam
For the Marshmallow Layer
2 sachets (28g) gelatine powder
1 cup water
2 cups caster sugar
1 cup glucose or corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence, rosewater essence or flavouring of your choice
For the Chocolate Layer
200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
20g coconut oil
PREHEAT oven to 180°C fan-forced. Grease a deep 20cm x 30cm slice or lamington tin. Line base and sides with non stick baking paper, extending paper 2cm from edge on all sides.
PLACE butter, sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes until pale and creamy. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl every now and then to make sure butter and sugar are well incorporated.
ADD honey and egg, beating until well combined.
SIFT over flour and baking powder, then stir well to combine.
PRESS mixture into prepared tin. Bake in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until golden.
PLACE jam into a microwave proof jug or bowl and gently heat through on low power until warmed through and loose, about 1 minute.
SPREAD warm base with jam.
PLACE ½ cup water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle over the gelatin and set aside to soak and bloom while you prepare the syrup.
COMBINE sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining ½ cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cover with a tight fitting lid and bring to a steady boil. After 2 minutes, remove the lid and brush down the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush to dissolve any remaining sugar crystals.
USING a candy thermometer continue to boil the mixture, without stirring, until it reaches 115 C or soft ball stage.
REMOVE saucepan from heat, allow mixture to cool a little before adding the syrup in a steady stream to the gelatin, beating continuously with an electric mixer at low speed until all the syrup is incorporated.
CONTINUE to beat for another 10 or so minutes – starting on the lowest setting and progressing to the highest until the mixture has tripled in volume and is glossy.
SPREAD marshmallow over the shortbread and jam base. Allow to stand at room temperature for about an hour to set. The quantities given for the marshmallow layer are very generous – for a thinner layer divide quantities provided for this layer in half, or make a full batch, pouring any excess into another baking paper lined tin to set.
MELT chocolate and coconut oil in a small heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.
STIR well to combine and pour melted chocolate over top of marshmallow layer.
REFRIGERATE 30 minutes or until chocolate is set. Stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing into squares with a very sharp knife or stamping into rounds with deep metal food preparation rings. Store in an airtight container.