This week's #WorldWarWednesday post comes from Food Historian fan and First World War researcher and food conservation reenactor Sandra Dunlap, who sent me this gem of a recipe. I thought it would be a good follow-up to last week's post on conserving wheat.
Tested Recipe No. 9 - Rice Flour Sponge Cake
100% Wheat Substitute
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup rice flour
Separate the whites and yolks of the eggs; beat yolks until thick and lemon colored, then add the lemon juice and salt. Add sugar and beat until light. Fold in the well beaten whites of eggs and the sifted flour and bake in a moderate oven.
Washington, April, 1918.
If you'd like to replicate it yourself, and Sandra and her daughter did, you'll need a few extra instructions. A "moderate oven" is 350 F, and Sandra and her daughter used an 8" round cake pan. And those egg whites will likely need to be beaten into stiff peaks. As for the unmentioned baking time? As Sandra recalls, it took about 45 minutes.
These sorts of recipe cards and recipe booklets were extremely common during the First World War as a way for ordinary people to try to conserve wheat, which was in short supply and needed to be sent overseas to feed the Allies and American soldiers.
Rice flour was not a common ingredient in American kitchens in 1918, but sponge cake certainly was. American housewives would have been very familiar with the basics of making a sponge cake and these simple cakes would either be served with just cream and fruit or might be cut up to make a trifle or other, fancier dessert. During wartime, because sugar was to be avoided, perhaps the cream would be sweetened with honey or maple sugar. Granulated sugar was necessary to make a sponge cake, however, which is why it is not omitted from this recipe. Any frosting was more likely to be a glaze or made with vegetable shortening than butter, which is also not needed for sponge cake. Conveniently for those who are gluten intolerant or who have celiac, this cake is not only 100% wheat free, it's also 100% gluten free!
Although it's not in the title, Sandra called this a lemon sponge cake, and given that lemon is the most prominent flavor, it stands to reason that the cake would taste a little of lemon, too. I can imagine this being very nice with raspberry jam and a little whipped cream. Happy historic eating!
If you enjoyed this installment of #WorldWarWednesdays, consider becoming a Food Historian patron on Patreon! Members get to vote for new blog post and podcast topics, get access to my food library, research advice, and more!
Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.
The Food Historian is an Amazon.com and Bookshop.org affiliate. That means that if you purchase anything from any Amazon or Bookshop links on this website, or from the Food Historian Bookshop, you are helping to support The Food Historian! Thank you!
You can also support The Food Historian by becoming a patron on Patreon: