The “World Famous” Nut Roll: Tasty Pastry’s Century-Old Claim to Fame

A Tasty Pastry nut roll is one of the things Clay Center is known for, as many residents will mention. It’s one of the first things visitors are told on their “must-do” list in town. The 100-plus-year treat has been shipped all over the world – to Japan, Australia, the Middle East, and throughout the U.S. 

Yet for all its fanfare, its origins are a mystery. 

Current and former owners alike said they wish there was more information on how the famous nut roll came to be. 

“It’s always been there, that’s kind of all we know,” said Briana Macy, who now owns the Tasty Pastry with her husband, Josh. “It’s kind of one of those lost things; it’s kind of sad that we don’t have someone to credit, it’s been such a long tradition.” 

Former Bakery owner, Bob Stratton, said much of the same. 

“I’m not sure when they came to be, but we were always known for it,” he said. 

Adding that the premise is simple: a fried cinnamon roll with buttercream frosting and ground, unsalted peanuts on top. Plus the option for those that are cream-filled. (Former owner, Linda’s favorite; Bob prefers a Maple Stick.) 

But unknown elsewhere, someone had to come up with the idea. 

“As far as I know there isn’t any other place that has that thing,” Briana said. “We’re still doing everything by hand.”

“We make the dough, we make the frosting, we get the peanuts in raw and roast and grind them.  All that stuff is still done the old-fashioned way”

She said the peanuts arrive in 30-pound bags, with the bakery pushing through more than 16 bags per month. 

Meanwhile, the buttercream frosting comes from a former owner’s recipe – Bob’s father, Bill – which helps give the nut roll its signature taste, Josh said. He also said he eats a nut roll almost every day, because he enjoys them and to ensure they taste the way they should. 

A History of Ownership

Stratton grew up in the Bakery; his parents Bill and Virginia had owned it since 1961. Before that, Stratton said, there were at least four owners, with the location dating back to the 1920s.

He graduated from CCCHS in 1966 before heading to Washburn and joining the Army’s infantry branch. He then went to work for a life insurance company, when he met Linda, and the pair were married in 1973. 

But when Bob’s father had a heart attack, they returned to Clay Center to help run the family bakery. 

“God had different plans for us; we were both content with what we were doing,” he said. 

Stratton said his father, was the baker of the family. He frequently made wedding cakes, including a celebration cake when the Eisenhower Library was opened in Abilene, and a 50th anniversary cake for former U.S. Senator Frank Carlson. 

Bob said he didn’t have those same skills or interests, and instead, added lunches and donut routes, selling to area convenience stores. 

“I always liked working with the public. I got to know a lot of people just through them coming in and the business community,” he said. 

Then in 2000, Strattons sold the bakery to two of their employees, Josh and Briana Macy. The pair had met while working at the Tasty Pastry in 1994 and got married in 1999. 

Josh said he still remembers the day they met – when getting himself a Dr. Pepper, he spotted a new employee and asked for her name. 

But his own ties to the Bakery went back to childhood. After his mother’s weekly weight loss meetings, the group would stop at the Bakery – an irony he didn’t realize at the time but laughs about in hindsight. 

“I love the Bakery from childhood, as most kids in town will say,” he said. “I would walk in and they wouldn’t even need to ask what I wanted, they’d just bring me a strawberry twist and a Pepsi.” 

By high school, he began working at the location, a fit that he said felt natural. 

“I just excelled at it,” he said. “I’m bragging but it just fit me.” After a semester in college, he returned to work full-time.

After the Macys were wed in 1999, they were in talks to purchase the bakery by six months into their marriage. 

“Ultimately it’s been a good fit,” he said. “I feel called to this in multiple ways.  One because it’s where God wants me to be – I’m not even sure that entirely makes sense to me, but I believe it to be true – and for Clay Center. I think the bakery is an important part of the history of the town and I want to keep it going.” 

Donuts by the numbers:

• The Tasty Pastry nut roll, as it’s known today, dates back at least to the 1920s. In the 1990s, an older man who worked at the bakery as a teenager told Macy the nut rolls looked the same as they did 80 years prior. 

      “It was confirmation from one person at least that the nut roll has been here since the [19]20s,” Macy said.  

• Top-selling day: 6,820 donuts/sweet rolls: April 8, 2023 (Sat. before Easter), 1,500 of which were nut rolls. Macy wrote it on the wall to commemorate the new record. 

• Average days sell 2,700 donuts/sweet rolls with anywhere from 150 nut rolls out the door (not counting routes), up to 600 on a busy Saturday.  

• Most nights, when things are going well, Josh said they are able to make 1,000 donuts an hour. 

• Bakers show up as early as 8:30 pm in order to prep and cut dough for the next day, with frosters having donuts ready by 4 am, which is when drivers leave. More than 50 stores receive donuts to sell. Donuts are also delivered to Manhattan, Junction City, Abilene, Westmoreland, Wamego, Washington, Marysville, and more. 

• The Bakery building is known to exist as early as 1918, but its origin date is unknown. 

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