Making this Cranberry Orange Bread recipe is one of my favorite holiday traditions. It’s an easy loaf cake with a crazy light delicate texture, and the time honored flavor combination of sweet citrus and tart cranberries.
Cranberry orange quick bread is always the highlight of our holiday brunch!
In a runoff between bundt cakes and quick breads I’m not sure who I’d root for, I love them both, especially this time of year. This is the kind of cake you can whip up on a whim, I’m sure you’ve got the ingredients on hand (you do stock your freezer with cranberries, right?) You’ll never be at a loss for what to bring to a last minute to-do, or what to feed an unexpected guest and you’ll make it look effortless. This is domestic goddess territory 😉
Fresh cranberries have the most enticing tart berry-like flavor
The berries ~ which are raw, not dried ~ give a burst of brightness in every bite. That tart berry flavor is unique to cranberries, and I can’t get enough of it. But don’t worry that this bread will be too sharp or sour, because baking the cranberries tones down their acidity, and of course it’s all balanced by the sweet orange glaze.
Bring this pretty cranberry cake to the office party, or display it proudly on your holiday brunch table, the recipe bakes up beautifully every time.
How to make sugared cranberries
There are lots of different approaches to this, but I favor the simplest (no surprise!)
- Simply rinse your raw cranberries first.
- Then roll them in sugar to coat while they’re still moist. The water will help the sugar adhere.
- Set them aside to dry before using. Be extra gentle with them so you don’t disturb the sugar coating.
- You can use regular granulated sugar, or use Sparkling Sugar, like I’ve used in today’s recipe for an extra bit of glam. For my Cranberry Gingersnap Pie, below, you can see how they look using regular sugar.
- Other methods include coating the cranberries in egg white, or soaking the berries in sugar syrup first. I don’t find that either of these methods results in a better end result, so I stick with simple water.
You’ll find, if you did your mixing correctly, that this cake has an incredibly light and fluffy batter. It’s a joy to work with!
My tip for baking light textured cakes and quick breads
- The tip is super simple: cream your butter and sugar together for several minutes, scraping down your bowl, so that it becomes light and fluffy. Continue to beat well after each egg addition, giving it 2-3 minutes after the last egg. You’ll notice that the color lightens and the mixture increases in volume and becomes silky smooth.
- Fully creaming the butter, sugar, and eggs together goes a long way toward giving your cake that tender crumb that we all crave.
I like to pop a few extra cranberries into the top of the batter, just because it looks nice 🙂
I always add a layer of parchment paper lining for the pan so I can lift the bread out after baking. This helps the bread cool faster so I can get that all important glaze on. It also allows me to slice it so much easier when it’s out of the pan.
Are you obsessed with quick breads?
- Double Chocolate Banana Bread
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bread
- Easy Apple Fritter Bread
- Buttermilk Lemon Bread
Cranberry Orange Bread
- a standard 9×5 loaf pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 orange
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour (or make your own, instructions below)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
- 1 cup heaped, fresh cranberries
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 3-4 Tbsp fresh orange juice (you may not need all of it)
- sugared cranberries
- grated orange zest
- Preheat oven to 350F Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan and line with a sheet of parchment so you can easily lift the bread out for glazing and slicing.
- Remove the zest from the orange with a vegetable peeler. A serrated peeler works best for this. You want to remove just the orange part of the peel, with little to none of the bitter white part.
- Process the peel and the sugar in a food processor until the peel is very finely ground and the sugar is moist and fragrant, this will only take a minute. Pulse at first, then process.
- Rinse, dry, and give the cranberries a very rough chop, it's ok if some of them are whole. Set aside.
- Put the orange sugar and butter into a stand mixer and cream until light and fluffy ~ a full 5 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. This helps lighten the cake and help it rise.
- Beat in each of the eggs, one by one, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Continue beating for another 2-3 minutes. The mixture will become light and fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice.
- Lower the speed of the mixer and mix in the baking poweder and salt. Then add the flour, alternately with the buttermilk, beating just until blended. I like to finish by hand with a silicone spatula.
- Fold in the cranberries, then turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top.
- Bake on the center rack for 50-55 minutes, or until fully risen and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it (moist crumbs are fine.) If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, lay a sheet of foil loosely over the top.
- Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove, using the parchment paper handles, and let fully cool on a rack.
- Meanwhile whisk together the sugar with enough orange juice to make a thick glaze. The glaze should be quite thick, and just barely pourable. Spread the glaze over the cooled bread.
- Top with orange zest and sugared cranberries.
- Rinse the cranberries, then working in small batches, roll them around in a small bowl of sugar. You can use regular granulated sugar, or sparkling sugar, like I did. Set them on a plate to dry.
Questions and Reviews
Hi Sue, I want to make this when my sister friends come over but one is gluten-free and dairy free. What can I substitute, if anything, to make this delicious looking bread? Every Christmas I make your cranberry breakfast cake and even my son who doesn’t eat sweets, breads, etc. tried this and even had a second piece!!?
Thank you for all your delicious recipes and beautiful posts!!
That’s a tough one Susan, you’d pretty much have to rejigger the recipe for those requirements. I’d recommend a good quality gluten free baking mix to sub for flour. For dairy free I’m less sure. You could try oil for the butter, and maybe a non dairy milk or yogurt for the buttermilk.