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World War 1 Rationing - Bake A Trench Cake

World War 1 Rationing

In World War 1, the British Government set new laws introducing food rationing. The ships bringing food over to Britain from other countries were often bombed at sea by German U-Boats and never arrived. Additionally, a lot of Britain's food produce was being sent to the soldiers fighting on the front line. As a result, food became limited and very expensive, and people began to panic.

The Government introduced rationing as a way of sharing food fairly amongst everyone. Rationing applied to foods like sugar, meat, flour, butter and milk. Each person (even the royal family!) received ration cards that they could use at specific stores. Rationing meant that every person had access to food - even in a time when food was scarce.

But this didn’t mean that people weren’t hungry. The Government had to introduce harsh punishments for those who broke the rationing rules – including fines and even prison time.

Cooking With Rations

Luxury items (like those used to make a cake) were very difficult to come by during this time and morale was at an all time low. But the British people came up with a way to treat themselves, even in a time of war. They adapted recipes, substituting items they could no longer get their hands on with more readily available ingredients, to create home-cooked favourites to lift everyone’s spirits. There were even ration cookery books, such as “The Win-The-War Cookery Book”, packed full of revised recipes to fit with ration ingredients.

But let’s get back to cake. The recipe for this World War One Trench Cake shows how truly inventive people had become in the name of morale-lifting home-baked treats. It was designed with a specific purpose – to be sent by post to the soldiers fighting in the trenches.

Instead of fats, like butter, they used dried fruits - this helped keep the cake moist for a long time which was perfect for the long journey to the front line. The recipe included very little flour (a rationed item) – this helped to keep it small and dense, ideal for fitting in a parcel to post to the trenches. And finally, you won’t find any eggs in this recipe - they substituted vinegar in for this luxury item to help the cake rise.

Why not make a World War One Trench Cake for yourself? Check out the original recipe and instructions below:

World War One Trench Cake Recipe


  • 1/2 lb flour (about 2 cups)

  • 4 oz margarine

  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

  • 1/4 pint of milk

  • 3 oz brown sugar

  • 3 oz cleaned currants

  • 2 teaspoons cocoa

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

  • grated lemon rind


Grease a cake tin. Rub margarine into the flour in a basin.

Add the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the soda dissolved in vinegar and milk. Beat well. Turn into the tin. Bake in a moderate oven for about two hours.

Yes, pretty vague instructions, we know. But don’t panic! We’ve found a much clearer, modernised version that might help you out. Check it out at World War 1 in the Vale.

The web links in this article have been included for reference only and are in no way affiliated with Imagining History. Imagining History has no control over what content is included on these web links so discretion is advised.

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