Rice cakes have literally exploded in popularity as a low calorie, low fat snack. Perhaps this is no coincidence—their production is based on the explosive characteristic of rice (and similar grains like popcorn) when heat and pressure are applied. Although they are considered a "new" and perhaps "high tech" snack, rice cakes have an ancient history and are made by simple processes that are both time-and capital-intensive. So, although producers may relish the pop, snap, and crackle, they fear the breakage that can result from even the slightest imbalance in the careful relationship of moisture, ingredients, time, and temperature that is essential to the production of rice cakes.
Rice cakes have only two critical ingredients—rice and water. The rice itself needs certain characteristics to produce the best quality cake and limit breakage. Sticky rice, whether white or brown, tends to work best, while long-grain varieties don't expand during cooking as vigorously. Water is important early in preparation. Other ingredients like salt (added before popping or sprayed on after) and various flavorings are important considerations to taste-and nutrition-conscious consumers but are not significant to the production process.