Depression Cakes and Speakeasy Sazeracs

Life is tough. We could be heading into a new-age Depression. Of course, here at Short Order, the first thing we think of is: What will we eat? And better yet: What will we drink?

Let's take a step back in time when the best of us knew how to truly turn lemons into lemonade. Embrace '30s vintage lifestyle by throwing a soiree -- speakeasy style, with a Sazerac and some Depression cakes (also called war cakes) to boot.

Here's a bit of history. Dames in the '30s didn't have much to make sweet treats for the family. There were no eggs, milk, sugar, or butter, so to please the returning soldiers, they had to make do. And that meant making cake with half the ingredients they were accustomed to. And wouldn't you know it, they hit on something we think of as trendy nowadays: a vegetarian chocolate cake.

Chocolate Depression Cake
Adapted from SavorySweetLife.com

1 1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup strong coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl; then add the wet ingredients.
3. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan and bake for 30 minutes.

There would be nothing better than to have a cool drink to wash the cake down. During Prohibition, everyone was hankering for a dash of booze, giggle juice, hooch. Enter the speakeasy. We have the oldest American cocktail recipe for you too. It's called a Sazerac, originally made by Antoine Amedee Peychaud (yes, like Peychaud bitters). And this drink is made not with absinthe but with Sazerac's absinthe interpretation, Herbsaint.

Classic Sazerac
From Diamond Dame

6 ounces dry rye whiskey
1 ounce Herbsaint
Few dashes Peychaud's bitters
1 sugar cube
Curl of lemon peel for garnish

1. Pack a lowball glass with ice to chill.
2. In a second glass, muddle sugar cube and bitters; then add rye whiskey.
3. Toss the ice from the first glass, pour in the Herbsaint, and swirl around the glass to coat.
4. Pour in whiskey mixture and top with lemon peel.

Another classic cocktail we've tried is the mint julep. When money is tight, you can always take the Lorenz Hart approach and sing, "Hallejuah! I'm a bum again!" The broadway songwriter had something right: Always look on the bright side of things. Life is tough. Cake and alcohol help make it better.

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