Rolling Pin

Bonnag Recipes

Traditional and newer variations of the Island's favourite cake - bonnag.

For all these recipes we are thankful to Suzanne Daugherty for extracting them from her collection.

Reposted from the Manx Notebook -

Measures or equivalents
•1 tsp = 5g or 1/8 oz;
•1 tbsp = 15g or ½oz
•4oz = 100g = ½cup (flour)

'Basic' Bonnag

•1 lb flour
•1 oz fat (or 2 oz)
•pinch salt
•1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
•fruit and sugar if liked
•1 tsp cream of tartar rubbed in with flour and fat
Dissolve soda in sour milk Then mix and bake in moderate oven.

'Fruit' Bonnag

•2 1/2 cups flour
•1 cup sugar
•1 cup currants
•1 tbsp margarine
•1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
•1 large tsp mixed spice
•few drops vanilla essence
•cup or more buttermilk

Rub butter into flour. Add other dry ingredients. When will mixed, mix with buttermilk.
Bake about 1 hour in moderate oven.

'Common' Bonnag

•1 lb plain flour
•4 oz margarine
•1 tsp salt
•1 tsp baking soda
•1 tsp cream of tartar
•4 oz sugar
•4 oz currants
Bake in moderate oven 3/4 hour

Mrs. Kerruish's Manx Bunloaf

A much richer cake-like recipe, note the addition of eggs which is not mentioned in any earlier recipe.

•18 oz plain flour
•2 oz margarine
•2 oz lard
•2 oz brown sugar
•2 oz white sugar
•2 eggs
•18 oz currants
•5 oz sultanas
•2½ oz peel
•½ level tsp Cream of Tartar
•½ level tsp Carbonate of Soda
•1 teaspoon spice
•Buttermilk to mix

No method given but judging from the ingredients rather like a rich fruit cake: Beat fats and sugar, add eggs; sift flour spice and raising ingredients, then add with fruit and cook in a slow oven (150C - probably around 2 hours but needs experimentation). Alternatively possibly rub fats into sifted flour/spice mix and then add eggs, fruit and buttermilk to produce the required dropping consistency

Bun loaf or Spice Cake

•1 lb Plain Flour
•8 oz lard
•8 oz brown sugar
•8 oz currants
•8 oz sultanas
•4 oz mixed peel
•8 oz raisins
•1 teaspoon mixed spice
•1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
•2 cups of milk
•2 tablespoons of black treacle
Method: Sieve dry ingredients, rub fat into flour, add fruit, mix treacle with milk, mix to a soft consistency. Turn into greased tin, bake in moderate oven.

Other variations are:

Special Bun Loaf

•1 lb flour,
•4 oz margarine
•2 lb mixed fruit
•8 oz sugar
•2 tablespoons syrup
•2 teaspoons spice
•candied peel or marmalade
•1 dessert bicarbonate of soda
mix with sour milk or buttermilk (dissolve bicarbonate of soda in milk and add to dry ingredients)

Bake 2 hours in slow oven

These last two have a different method, and are good and moist. They were attributed to May Green, who used to demonstrate cookery, and s connected to Creer and Creer Ltd.,the Grocers of Buck's Road, Douglas.


•4 oz margarine
•4 cups fruit
•2 cups sugar
•2 cups water

Put in pan and boil for 3 minutes. Allow to go cold and add:
•4 cups SR flour
•2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
•2 teaspoons vinegar

Dissolve bicarbonate in the vinegar. Stir together.
Bake at 300 deg F for 10 minutes then reduce to 275 deg F for 50 minutes.

As above but add 2 tsp treacle and 2 tsp mixed spice in flour mixture.

Bonnag - The Sunrose Way

•12 oz Plain Flour
•4 oz Sugar
•4 oz Butter or Margarine
•1 teaspoonful Bi-Carb. Of Soda
•About 4 oz Dried Fruit
•Sour Milk to mix to fairly soft dough (about a good teacupful)

Rub fat into flour, add the sugar, then the fruit, add some of the milk in which the Bi-Carbonate of Soda has been mixed. Then add the rest until required consistency is obtained. Put in greased Baking tin and sprinkle sugar on top. Bake in a moderate oven about 45 minutes.

Rich Bonnag

Here is a recipe for Manx Bunloaf, which incidentally came from the 1971 Kathie Webber's International Star Cook Book (TV Times Extra) 1971. It measures up to the hand-down recipes which I have.

•8 oz plain flour
•pinch of salt
•pinch of mixed spice
•pinch of nutmeg
•3/4 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
•4 oz butter
•4 oz soft brown sugar
•1/2 lb sultanas
•1/2 lb currants
•1/4 lb stoned raisins
•1 oz chopped mixed peel
•1/2 level tablespoon black treacle
•buttermilk or milk to mix

Sift the flour, salt, mixed spice, nutmeg and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Rub in the butter until mixture looks like fine bread crumbs. Stir in the sugar, fruit and peel. Add the treacle and mix to a fairly stiff dropping consistency with buttermilk or milk.

Turn mixture into a well greased 1 lb loaf tin and bake for 2 1/2 hours in centre of oven, pre-heated to 325 deg.F or Mark 3. Test with a skewer to see if cooked.