Angel Cake


The Essex Girls are on the way! For people new to the blog, The Essex Girls is my novel about two working class girls in the Sixties – mods, Motown and milkshakes. The book comes out in 2 months. A few final touches and we’ll be ready to go. One of those final touches is putting a recipe in the back of the book, based on a dish from the novel.  At first I couldn’t think what that might be – most of the time Sandra and Linda eat beans on toast, egg and chips, and Ready Brek. For special occasions, it might be ham salad.

But then I remembered the cake! There is a birthday cake (not in Linda’s house, it should be said), and it’s an Angel Cake. So – not only will readers get a cracking good book (as we say in the literary world) but a recipe too! For Angel Cake.

I have to admit that when I wrote about the cake, how soft, creamy, even moist it was, I hadn’t knowingly eaten Angel cake. Of course, this is why it’s called fiction. Writers make things up. But they must do research.

For me, writing about the Sixties, research is usually looking at my old diaries. However, while in a popular supermarket yesterday, buying frozen, microwaveable chips for my Aunty Rita (89) I was walking past the cake section and saw a packet of Angel Cake Slices, Tesco’s own brand. In the pursuit of knowledge and experience – who knows what questions I might be asked when the book comes out – I quickly snatched a packet from the shelf, paid and took them back to Rita’s flat. We had a cup of tea and a piece of Angel cake. Delicious, soft, moist and a little cream. The perfect cake to go in the back of the book! I left the slices with Rita to enjoy in her own time.

This morning, needing to double check my facts, I bought a packet of Mr Kipling Angel Slices. I have to say, they are not as delicious and unctuous as the Tesco brand.

Clearly, there must be a way forward for readers. Here is my 5-step plan.

  1. Pre-order The Essex Girls here.
  2. As soon as you receive it on or about 19 April, read it and thoroughly immerse yourself in the glorious decade that was the 60s.
  3. Find the recipe at the back of the book.
  4. Make the cake.
  5. Eat the cake.
  6. (optional) Think about angels.
  7. (even more optional) Wonder why you can’t take your eyes off that male dancer with the floppy hair.


Top 3 pictures – Christine Wilkinson



Heaven must have sent you

Even when the pirate ships came along like Radio London and Radio 390, the trouble with radio was that you had to wait, sometimes for hours, for your favourite song to be played.  That’s why juke boxes were so important – although you often had to wait with them too.  Sometimes you never even heard your record that you’d paid 3d or 6d for, because so many were in the queue to be played, that before you knew it, it was time to leave to catch the bus home for tea.  And we didn’t get a record player in our house till late 1966.

The upshot was that I never had any records, the records that formed the background music to everything I did in the early and mid-sixties.  Later I had an obscure Motown compilation, and sometimes there  was a track here or there on a Golden Guinea LP of the blues that I had liked.   But I had no record collection, nothing to say, this is where I come from, this is what was going through my brain.

So roll forward twenty years.  It is a grey Tuesday afternoon, I have just finished a case in Waltham Forest Magistrates Court, a soulless modern concrete building ironically set next to the handsome forties-built Waltham Forest Town Hall.  After waiting for an hour it was clear that my client, charged with stealing money from the open till of a shop, is not going to appear.  He has done this before.  A warrant has been issued for his arrest.  I leave court and wander down the road, thinking about my client, wondering how long it will take the police to find him.  About forty five minutes, probably, as he is bound to be at home.  He’ll be back in court tomorrow.  Mindlessly I walk past the bus stop, I turn left, down Hoe Street.  I look in the shop windows, consider some fruit, wonder if I need a step ladder or a new broom, and I pass a second hand record store.  I go in.  I flick through the old 45s, not looking for anything in particular.  Then I see a Motown label.  The name rings a bell, I try to think of the words, the tune.  The Elgins – not a group that says much to me.  But I buy it.

I take it home to Stoke Newington and on my huge, unwieldy ghetto blaster with built-in turntable I play it.  Heaven Must Have Sent You.  I know all the words, I know where she changes key, I know the pauses.  And as I dance round my flat, yes, of course, I’m back in the Corn Exchange with Sandra, doing our mod jive to the records, waiting for tonight’s group to come on.