Revisiting the Royals

Dear Readers: Years ago, when I first began my weekly chats with you, I had the honor of recording heartfelt memories of women and men whose baking talents enriched the lives of their family. Each honoree was awarded a “Crown of Golden Stars” when inducted into Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court. It is with great pleasure that I will intermittently revisit their stories. Today enjoy the reflections of honoree Nancy Gibson.

It was the fall of 2002. Two of her sons had been selected to participate in the upcoming Fiesta Bowl Parade with Southwest Iowa’s Marching Band. But in order for her boys to experience this memorable event, expense money needed to be raised. How would that be accomplished?

Dear Readers, the story I share with you today is not necessarily about fame or fortune in the true sense of those words. Its theme covers a broader expanse. Because with the aid of mixers, ovens, flour, and more, an industrious woman and her family not only overcame a challenge but created a rich heritage of loving memories to last a lifetime!

Wife, mother, teacher, librarian, musician, woman of God—Nancy (Mrs. Mike) Gibson, Atlantic, IA, is my newest inductee into Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court.

Let me weave the threads of Nancy’s story into a baking chat with you, Dear Readers. It indeed is an account of how a little molehill grew into a huge mountain with bounteous rewards!

A Baker From Birth

Nancy was born in Stanberry, MO–the oldest of eight children. She learned to be a baker from the get-go.

“When I was a little girl, my mom, Carolyn Conover, would put me on a kitchen stool. She then told me that I had to read a book first before I could help her in the kitchen,” explains Nancy. “The book may have been a story about Dick and Jane.”

Noting her mom’s baking influence, Nancy said, “Mom had opened her first restaurant when I was 13 years old. Through the years, Mom had made dozens of freshly baked cinnamon rolls and pies for the restaurant and local sale barn.”

Now, Dear Readers, hold that thought and fast-forward to the next generation as Nancy and her mother brainstormed about a fund-raising idea that would generate enough cash to allow her musical boys to travel to distant places.

With an “Aha” moment, Nancy’s mom suggested the idea of baking and selling homemade cinnamon rolls and thusly created a recipe that would expedite the entire process by cutting the dough proofing time.

Spearheading the groundbreaking event was my honoree whose rules were laid as such:

  1. The boys had to pay for one-half of the ingredients. Mike and Nancy would pay for the other half.
  2. The boys had to help bake, frost, wrap, and deliver the cinnamon rolls plus had to show their appreciation to the entire work crew by taking them out to dinner that evening.

Supporting One of Their Own

Sign-up sheets were created and posted around our local area. Hometown Stanberry citizens excitedly joined in the fray, too, helping support one of their own.

On the day of that maiden event, three generations of Nancy’s family gathered to bake 110 dozen cinnamon rolls in 16-1/2 hours.  Every step of the process was completed by hand—evidence of a solid work ethic that had been instilled in the lives of each family member from one generation to the next.

Did the Gibson Family cinnamon-roll fundraiser conclude as a one-time happening? No siree! Whenever any of her three sons—Caleb, Joshua, and Reed–or their cousins needed or to this day may still need financial help to enjoy expanding their horizons musically and beyond, the family gathers together for a great cinnamon-roll-baking reunion. Repeat supportive customers are the norm time after time. Word-of-mouth advertising from these faithful friends helped grow the orders year after year. “One year, we baked and sold 353 dozen,” exclaims Nancy. “And after that first year, we used two stand mixers and two ovens to help make the process go faster.”

Even today, those who have had the pleasure of enjoying the Gibson family cinnamon rolls, either because of a past purchase or perhaps as a gift from my honoree, still telephone Nancy requesting her homemade cinnamon roll goodness for special events. You can, too, Dear Readers! Nancy welcomes your phone call at 712-249-1138.

“I watched my family and my husband’s family come together through our fundraising activity,” Nancy glowingly said.

This diligent mother sums up her life’s baking experiences in this fashion, “God gave me the ability and love of baking. It is my pleasure to share it.”

It is indeed my pleasure to honor Nancy Gibson with a “Crown of Golden Stars” in Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court.

Nancy’s recipe for cinnamon rolls is a treasured family keepsake, but she generously shares a recipe for the only birthday cake her oldest son ever requests.


Nancy Gibson

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 c. oatmeal (quick or old-fashioned)
  • 1-1/2 boiling water
  • ½ c. margarine
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1-2/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • ½ c. chopped pecans or English walnuts

Topping Ingredients:

  • 3 T. margarine, melted
  • 2/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. flaked coconut
  • 3-4 T. cream
  • ½ c. chopped pecans or English walnuts


Spray the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray with flour. In a separate bowl, mix oatmeal with boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, cream margarine with sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon. Stir in oatmeal mixture. Add flour, baking soda, and chopped nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. While cake is baking, mix together topping ingredients. When cake is done, spread on topping and return to oven for 10 min.

Miss NiNi