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Catholic Recipe: Bannocks


  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup rolled oats (quick or old-fashioned, uncooked)
  • 1-1/3 cups buttermilk


Yield: 24 cakes

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: • •

Cost: $$$$

For Ages:11+

Origin: Scotland


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Also Called: Oat Cakes

The traveler in Scotland soon grows acquainted with a surprisingly good cake called a bannock. And once having eaten a bannock, it goes without saying he or she must hear the story of St. Columba, Scotland's most famous saint.

A mighty worker and founder of many monasteries was St. Columba, born in Ireland's County Donegal in the year 521. From earliest childhood, his thoughts turned heavenward, and he made his whole life both austere and full of good works. An Abbott by the time he was 40, he took twelve companions and set off for Scotland to convert the Picts. Those wild, fierce people of the Scottish hills grew to love him for his zeal and generosity. In fact, they even gifted him with an island all his own — the island of Iona. On that isle, he founded his most famous monastery of all, where in a tiny cell he lived a life of rigid self-denial. Columba slept on a slab of rock and lived on barley or oat cakes — bannocks — and water. This frugal but wholesome fare he shared with all comers, until he "sweetly slept in the Lord." His feast day is June 9.

On St. Columba's feast day in Scotland, an oaten cake is baked in his honor, and a coin is placed in the dough. The child that finds the coin receives the honor of being put in charge of the new lambs for the next twelve months, an office very popular with small shepherds.

Bannock comes from the Gaelic bannach, meaning a cake; that is, a large round scone or oatcake. It is a food of substance and may be made of oatmeal, wheat, or barley flour.


Heat griddle to 350°. Mix and sift flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into bowl. Stir in oats. Add buttermilk; mix until ingredients are well combined and form a ball. Turn out on lightly floured board or canvas; knead gently a few seconds. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 6-inch circles. Cut each circle into 4 wedges. Place wedges on ungreased griddle. Bake 5 minutes. Turn; bake second side 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter and marmalade. Makes 24 cakes.

Recipe Source: Cook's Blessings, The by Demetria Taylor, Random House, New York, 1965