Old-fashioned rice flour recipes: Classic cakes & cookies without wheat (1918)

Wheatless wonders Classic recipes for cakes and cookies made with rice flour (1918)

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During World War 1, even after rationing was over (such as for meat products), there was still a need for Americans at home to eat less wheat. Rather than force legal restrictions, the government asked for help with a sort of honor system.

“When thousands are dying on the battlefields of Europe to protect YOUR home and YOUR family, it is very little to ask that in return, wheat be eliminated from your menu,” said a statement issued in May 1918 by the US Food Administration of California. “Do away with wheat — abolish it from your table, and you will be aiding in the defense of your home and country.”

Then they added one more kicker: “Every time you eat a piece of white bread, you are taking it away from one who needs it worse, from either a starving woman or child or a hungry soldier.” And so, many recipes were created using all kinds of other flour and similar products — rice flour, potato flour, corn meal, etc.

Here are some recipes created at the time, all using rice flour in place of wheat. (Note that many do not have explicit baking instructions, and probably supposed that everyone knew how to bake traditional staples. You can find some old-fashioned baking guidelines here.)

Eat more cornmeal, rye flour, oatmeal, and barley 1917

How to make cakes and cookies with rice flour

All batters made with rice flour should be thin. Cookies and drop cakes should be thin enough to spread a little in the oven.

Sour milk cake (old-fashioned kind)


1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup thick sour milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 cups rice flour
1 teaspoon salt


Cream sugar and shortening and add other ingredients. Bake in bread pan in slow oven from twenty to thirty minutes.

Sour cream cake

1 cup sour cream
1-3/4 cups sugar
2-1/4 cups rice flour
3 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Lemon extract
Vanilla extract


Beat whites very stiff, add yolks one at a time, then sugar, and stir; then cream and flour with baking powder. Blend and bake in three large layers. Flavor with two parts of vanilla, to one of lemon.

Orange cake


1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter substitute
1 yolk and 2 whites of eggs
1/2 cup orange juice and water
1 small teaspoon grated orange zest
1-1/2 cups rice flour
1 level teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 level teaspoon soda


Mix dry ingredients and add alternately with the liquid, after the butter and sugar have been creamed and yolk of egg added. Fold in the whites gently. Bake in loaf or layer pan.

Rice flour cake


2 cups rice flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 egg
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon flavoring [extract]
1/4 teaspoon salt


Cream or melt shortening. Add sugar, eggs, and sift in the dry ingredients. Add milk. Bake in a moderate oven.

To make rice cupcake shortcakes

The above is a good substitute for shortcake:

Remove the centers from the cupcakes; fill and cover with crushed berries. Put cake centers and whipped cream on top. This may also be baked in layers and served with berries as a shortcake. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Wheatless fruit bars


1/2 cup seeded [seedless] raisins
1/2 cup chopped dates, dried peaches or prunes
1 cup broken nuts
2 eggs
3/4 cup white or brown sugar
6 level tablespoons rice flour
2 rounded teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla


Mix all ingredients except whites of eggs. Beat whites of eggs stiff and fold in last. Spread in thin layers on greased pans. Bake in a moderate oven. Cut in squares or finger lengths. This recipe fills two pans eight inches square.

Gluten-free raisin cakes
Photo by Merinka/Envato

Rice flour walnut cookies


1 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup broken nut meats
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla


Beat eggs lightly, add the sugar, sift in the dry ingredients, adding the nuts and vanilla last. Drop from the tip of a spoon on to a greased pan, placing an inch apart. Bake in a moderate oven. Remove from pan as soon as done and cool on a breadboard.

Nut bars


1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup boiling water
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons English walnuts, chopped
Halves of walnuts or almonds
1/2 cup rice flour
1/8 teaspoon salt


Put 2 tablespoonfuls sugar in a saucepan and heat a little; add shortening and water; let boil two minutes. Remove from the fire and add remaining sugar, flour mixed with salt, and walnuts.

Spread as rolled wafers; mark in 2-inch squares, and lay a nut on top of each. Bake in slow oven, removing from pan as soon as done.

Sponge cake with rice flour

4 eggs
3/4 cupful rice flour
1 cupful sugar
1/3 teaspoonful salt
Lemon juice or vanilla

Beat yolks of eggs until thick and lemon-colored. Add salt and the sugar gradually. Beat until light. Fold into this mixture the stiffly whipped whites and the sifted rice flour and add flavoring. Bake in moderate oven.

– US Food Administration


Wheatless pie dough

1/3 cupful rye flour
1/3 cupful barley flour
1/3 cupful rice flour
1/4 teaspoonful salt
1/4 teaspoonful baking powder
1/4 cupful vegetable fat and lard mixed
Cold water powder
Small egg yolk

Mix baking powder, salt and flour, rub in the lard, and egg yolk beaten slightly. Mix quite stiff with cold water. Roll out on floured surface. Dot with remaining fat and sprinkle with flour. Fold over and roll out again. Roll like jelly roll, divide in two parts and roll out to fit plate.

– From the Hotel McAlpin

Griddle cakes

Recipe from The Salina Daily Union (Salina, Kansas) – June 4, 1918

3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup rice flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon baking soda
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 cups buttermilk or sour milk
1 egg

Mix all ingredients except egg. Beat egg white and yolk separately. Fold in the yolks, then fold in the whites before cooking like hotcakes.

MORE TO TRY: 6 old-fashioned wheat-free bread recipes from back when they had to ration flour

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