John A. Adams might not recognize much about the Adams Extract Company today.
First off, it’s in Gonzales, 60 miles south of Austin, which is where he left it when he died in 1938.
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Adams Best Red Velvet Cake
Company founder John A. Adams is credited with turning red velvet cake into the bright red concoction we know today. Before the Great Depression, bakers gave a hint of red to the popular (and tender crumbed) velvet cake by adding cocoa and either buttermilk or vinegar, which caused a reaction with the anthocyanin in the cocoa to turn the cake slightly red. But by the 1930s, Adams wasn’t just in the vanilla business; he’d started selling other extracts, including an imitation butter, and food coloring, too.
Ever the marketer, Adams developed a recipe that called for his butter extract and two bottles of his red food coloring and set up eye-catching displays in grocery stores that showed just how red you could make a cake if you made it his way.
Americans grew to expect the vibrant color that continues to define the cake, which with the help of our continued cupcake craze seems to only have grown in popularity.
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. Adams Best vanilla
1 tsp. Adams butter flavor
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 oz. Adams red color
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously. Add vanilla and butter flavor to mixture. In a small bowl, make a paste of cocoa and food coloring and blend into shortening mixture.
In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add a small amount of the dry ingredients to the cream and sugar mixture, and then add some of the buttermilk. Alternate until both are incorporated, and add the vinegar with last part of buttermilk. Blend well. Bake in three 9-inch or 10-inch pans for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely. Cover with frosting, such as Betty Adams Original White.
Betty Adams White Icing
Betty Adams, the late wife of John C. Adams, created this recipe for a cooked white icing that has topped countless red velvet cakes since she created it more than 65 years ago.
1 cup milk
3 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp. Adams Best vanilla
1/4 tsp. Adams butter flavor
Combine milk, flour and salt in saucepan over medium heat. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Take off heat and let cool completely.
In separate bowl, cream shortening, sugar, vanilla and butter flavor together. Combine milk mixture with shortening mixture and beat well.
Stuffed Zucchini Squash
4 zucchini squash
1/2 cup chopped large onion
1 cup chopped large tomato
1 8 oz. can sliced mushrooms (you can substitute fresh)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice zucchini long ways. Scoop out the middle of the zucchini, leaving behind the skin and enough of the squash to create a “boat,” but reserve the scooped out zucchini.
In a medium saute pan over medium heat, saute chopped onion, bell peppers and mushrooms in butter and oil until onions and peppers are soft. Add the scooped out squash and tomato. Saute until heated through.
Remove from heat and add spices, bread crumbs and half of the Parmesan cheese. Mix well. Place squash boats in 9-inch-by-11-inch glass dish. Fill boats with squash mixture. Top boats with remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until squash is tender. Serves 8.
— Recipes from AdamsExtract.com
Did you know?
Mike Judge, the “Office Space” director who moved to Austin in the 1990s, says that driving by the Lundgren building on Interstate 35 and finding out that a vanilla extract company was inside inspired his 2009 movie “Extract.” The Lundgren building was quickly demolished after the company moved to Gonzales, but Judge toured the Gonzales facility before he shot the movie at a water bottling plant near Los Angeles.