Moist & delicious Cranberry Orange Bread with Orange glaze and a wonderful festive decoration is the ultimate holiday favorite! This is hands down the best Cranberry bread recipe ever with aromatic orange zest and tart cranberries that can be the perfect easy breakfast or dessert during the holidays.
📖 What is Cranberry Orange Bread
Cranberry Orange Bread is typically made during winter and it is associated with the colder weather and the Christmas holidays in December. The texture is more like a classic cake with velvety crumbs and has nothing to do with bread as such.
Cranberry Bread just like Banana bread is technically a loaf cake that is made in a pound cake tin using classic cake ingredients such as butter, flour, egg, and sugar. The technique is very similar to making Lemon Poundcake or Marble Loaf cake. What makes this recipe special is the addition of cranberries (fresh, frozen, or dried) and orange zest (both in the cake batter as well as in the glaze).
You might be aware of Starbucks Cranberry Orange bread, my recipe takes it a level further with even more cranberries, more orange zest, and a wonderful decoration on top!
🌟 Why this is the best recipe
- It is extremely easy – You won´t need any fancy ingredients to make my Cranberry bread. The recipe comes together really easily, totally doable from scratch. Both the mixing process, as well as the baking process are very simple, even for beginners
- It is super quick – I do not overcomplicate anything in this recipe, it is a really quick bread recipe, all you need to do is mix the ingredients, bake, and enjoy. The recipe is the perfect choice if you want something quick and impressive that is ready in about 1-2 hours, most of it is waiting for either for the cake to bake or to chill
- It is crazy delicious – I never compromise on taste! This cake is super moist, I am mean look at this crumb, it is crazy moist! Sweet Vanilla, orange, and sourish cranberry flavors perfectly bond together in the perfect velvety crumb, while the orange glaze and the candied fruits on top bring extra crunchiness. There is a good reason why I call it "The Best Cranberry Orange Bread recipe". Hands down better than Starbucks Cranberry Orange bread
- No special equipment is needed – All you need is a Loaf tin that you probably already have at home and you are good to go! However, if you do not own a loaf tin, this cake can be made in any cake tin; mini loaf pans, round cake tin, brownie pan, or even in a cupcake tin
- It is extremely pretty – I mean you can totally leave out the decoration the cake is super delicious with or without it, but why not try to take the usual Cranberry bread to the next level with this showstopper yet super easy decoration?
📝 Ingredient notes
- Butter: This recipe is a butter-based cake. Use always unsalted butter as you want to be in control of the quantity of the salt. I am using 82% fat content butter in all my recipes. In this recipe, the butter needs to be at room temperature which technically means soft enough to be able to cream but not too soft or runny so avoid last-minute microwaving
- Granulated sugar: For all my Pound cakes, including this easy Cranberry Orange bread, I use simple, white granulated sugar, nothing fancy or expensive. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my sugar guide
- Egg: Room temperature as always
- Flour: You can also use self-raising flour, pastry flour, or even All-purpose flour, they are so-called “soft flour” which are low on protein resulting in a delicate, tender texture. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my flour guide.
- Baking powder: If you are using self-raising flour, then no baking powder is needed however with AP and pastry flour use baking powder according to the recipe
- Vanilla: Avoid using artificial vanilla. There are several great brands for fine, pure vanilla, I use Nielsen massey which I love and really recommend. Use pure vanilla bean, vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
- Zest of orange: Using orange zest is my favorite flavoring to spice up my recipes, it makes the desserts wonderfully flavourful and aromatic, and works wonderfully in Christmas theme recipes like this Cranberry Orange Bread. Make sure you use organic orange (or one which has no chemicals on the skin) and only grate the orange part of the skin, but not the white. Orange zest will be also used for the decoration, for that you will need to peel the zest off the orange
- Orange juice: Juice of the oranges you have taken the zest off will be used in the syrup as well as in the glaze. Only use freshly squeezed orange juice, and definitely do not use store-bought orange drinks
- Candied orange zest: I am using ready-made candied orange zest from the store, if it is not available for you, you can try homemade or simply replace it with more orange zest
- Cranberry: I am using frozen cranberries but the recipe works very well with fresh and dried cranberries too. If using frozen, do not thaw. If using fresh cranberries, you can cut the bigger cranberries in half. If using dried, you can leave them in water or rum overnight to rehydrate them and make them juicer
- Powdered sugar / Icing sugar: The orange glaze will be made with orange juice and powdered sugar, make sure you sift it as powdered sugar tends to form lumps
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all Ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
👩🍳 How to make this recipe
1. How to make the Loaf cake with cranberries
This Orange Cranberry Bread recipe is the most amazing moist, fluffy loaf cake with velvety crumbs, incredibly delicious. It is also easy to prepare, the key is not to overwork the batter.
Step-by-step preparation process:
- Prepare your Loaf pan. Make sure you either use place parchment paper inside the tin or butter and flour it properly. The quantity stated in the recipe makes up a loaf tin that is 9x19cm / 3,5x7,5 inches
- Preheat oven to 175 C / 347 F. Use a Digital oven thermometer so you are aware of your real oven temp
- Ingredients must be all measured with a Digital scale
- Eggs and butter must be at room temperature for the batter to properly emulsify
- In a bowl cream sugar with room temperature, soft butter with an Electric hand mixer (or stand mixer) for a few minutes until fluffy
- Whisk egg in a separate bowl, then slowly mix in while your Electric hand mixer is on. Important that your egg is at room temperature, and that you mix in the egg slowly, so the cake batter won´t break
- Mix in vanilla and orange zest
- Sift the dry ingredients together to avoid unnecessary lumps (flour, baking powder, salt)
- Continue with the cake butter by gently folding the flour, baking powder, salt mixture into the wet ingredients
- Dry ingredients must be folded in by hand (using Rubber spatula). Do not use a mixer at this point
- Finally, mix in candied orange zest and cranberries
💡 Top Tip: On top of the cake apply a very thin butter line (with the help of a pastry bag)– this will help the Loaf cake to open up nicely and evenly instead of breaking randomly as it rises
2. How to bake
First of all, never bake any cake without properly pre-heating your oven first, so start with that before even preparing the cake batter. This Cranberry Orange bread will be baked at 175 C / 347 F, with no fan. Preheat the oven +20C / 68F as the home ovens temperature drops when you open the door. Always use a Digital oven thermometer to avoid over baked crumbly or under-baked cakes
Each oven is different so you might need to adjust the time slightly but in my oven, I bake this Cranberry Pound cake for 45-50 minutes. Please note that if you are using frozen cranberries the baking time is longer vs. fresh or dried, therefore focus on the texture, not the time. It is ready-baked when the cake has a nice rise and when a toothpick is inserted into the middle, it comes out clean. Make sure that the middle part is not raw when doing the toothpick test.
Toward the end of the baking time, make the syrup. The orange syrup is what makes loaf cake wonderfully flavourful, sweet & tangy, and super aromatic! The syrup also makes the Pound cake super moist for days! Making the syrup literally takes less than 5 minutes and could not be easier!
Boil sugar and freshly squeezed orange juice for 3-5 minutes until syrup slightly thickens. Please pay attention to the consistency (it should get syrupy) instead of focusing on the time as each stove is different. What is important is that you use the syrup immediately: pour warm syrup all over the warm Cranberry Orange cake, then syrup will sink in. You might want to pour the syrup in 2-3 stages depending on how quickly it sinks in.
💡 Top Tip: After syrup sank in and the cake slightly cools, remove it from the pan. Let it fully cool on a cooling rack then move it to the fridge and let it completely cool before glazing. Very important that you only start glazing the Cranberry Orange bread once it is nicely chilled.
3. How to glaze
Glazing is optional but it takes this Cranberry Orange Bread to the next level!
I am using a super simple sugar glaze that is a mixture of freshly squeezed orange juice and powdered sugar, you can also add a small amount of vanilla to it. In terms of consistency, your glaze should be thick enough, so it covers the loaf, but not too thick, so you will have the perfect drip effect.
Glazing in general, incl. glazing this Cranberry Bread is all about finding the right temperature to pour glaze over the cake. Make sure that your cake is cold (5C / 41F fridge temp) and the glaze is the right consistency, so the glaze can quickly set instead of running it through.
Once glazing on top, move the cake back to the fridge so it can set quickly.
💡 Top Tip: I like to use a pastry bag for glazing but it is not strictly necessary.
4. How to make the decoration
I love this kind of easy, yet decorative way to make a simple Cranberry bread super festive!
For the sugared orange zest, peel an orange, and cut a long strip out of the zest. For the sugared cranberries simply use 10-15 pieces.
Prepare a simple sugar syrup by boiling sugar and water. Stir in the cranberries and orange zest strips to fully coat in the syrup, then remove them into parchment paper. A few minutes later, the sugar syrup is somewhat set on the orange zest and cranberries, roll them in granulated sugar. Voila, your Cranberry Orange bread is ready with the most wonderful decoration on top!
🥣 Equipment notes
First and foremost, make sure you measure the ingredients with the help of a Digital scale. Cup measurement is highly inaccurate for consistent results and can cause all sorts of baking disappointments.
For baking the Cranberry Orange Bread you will need a Loaf pan, the quantity stated in the recipe makes a loaf tin that is 9x19cm / 3,5x7,5 inches. Make sure you apply appropriate cake pan preparation as you can see in my picture below; grease it with butter then flour it. You want to avoid the cake sticking to the pan!
❓ Recipe FAQs
Yes, you can, however, you will need to adjust the ingredient quantities and baking time accordingly. Having said that, the larger the cake the riskier that it won´t bake throughout, so you have to pay extra attention to the correct oven temperature and apply the toothpick check
Most probably yes, you can, however, you can´t just leave out / change an ingredient without reformulating the entire recipe. When one ingredient changes, some other ingredients need to be changed too in order to keep the balance in the texture and flavor. Sadly, I am not able to provide substitutes for all sorts of allergies and diets.
This is a super moist Cranberry Orange bread recipe and there are a few reasons that can cause dry, crumbly texture; 1. ingredients not measured correctly eg. too much flour added to the mixture 2. inappropriate mixing technique eg. over mixed cake batter 3. over baked, meaning it dried out too much. Consider investing into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to be able to measure the correct oven temperature and please make sure to use a Digital scale during baking, cups are not an accurate way of measuring for consistent results. Also, make sure that you do not skip the soaking syrup stage
Probably the loaf would have needed more baking time. Either, it was taken out of the oven too soon, or perhaps your oven is under heat. Consider investing into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer if you tend to struggle with the baking part of your desserts.
Another issue that can cause raw texture is measuring the ingredients inappropriately eg. adding less flour to the recipe. Consider using a Digital scale
Once the cake is baked, let it cool before applying the glazing. Any leftover cake can be stored in an air-tight container either at room temperature or in the fridge for 3-4 days. I suggest you cover the dessert so it does not absorb any smell from the fridge, or from the kitchen. Let it come back to room temperature before serving
You can totally freeze this Cranberry Pound cake, however, I suggest glazing it only after thawing.
🍰 Other Bread and Loaf cake recipes
The BEST Cranberry Orange Bread (VIDEO)
For the loaf
For the syrup
- 80 g (⅓ cups) Orange juice freshly squeezed
- 80 g (⅓ cups) Granulated sugar
For the glaze
- 40 g (2.5 tablespoons) Orange juice freshly squeezed
- 200 g (1⅔ cups) Powdered sugar Sifted
For the decoration
- 100 g (½ cups) Granulated sugar for the sugar syrup
- 100 g (½ cups) Water for the sugar syrup
- Orange zest stripes peel an orange and cut it into stripes
- Cranberries Fresh or frozen
- Granulated sugar Small amount of sugar to roll the orange zest stripes and cranberries in
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
Baking the Cranberry Orange Bread
- Heat oven to 175 C / 347°F , no fan
- Mix in vanilla and orange zest
- Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) and gently fold in with the help of a Rubber spatula
- Finally, mix in candied orange zest and cranberries
- Pour cake batter into the loaf tin and apply a very thin butter line on top of the cake batter
- Bake for 45-50 min or until a skewer inserted comes out clean
- Towards the end of the baking time make the syrup: boil orange juice and sugar in a saucepan until slightly thickens and reaches syrup consistency
- Once the loaf is baked, pour the warm syrup over in 2-3 stages. The syrup will sink in. Let it set before removing it from the tin.
- Let the cake completely cool in the fridge before glazing.
Glazing & Decorating
- For the glaze mix orange juice with powdered sugar. Your glaze should be thick enough, so it covers the loaf, but not too thick, so it will leave the perfect drip effect.
- Make sure that the cake is cold (5C / 41F fridge temp) and the glaze is on the right consistency, so it can quickly set instead of running it through.
- Pour glaze over the cake or use a piping bag
- Once glazing on top, move the cake back to the fridge so it can set quickly.
- For the decortion, prepare a simple sugar syrup by boiling equal amount of sugar and water. Stir in the cranberries and orange zest strips to fully coat in the syrup, then remove them into parchment paper.
- A few minutes later, when the sugar syrup is somewhat set on the orange zest and cranberries, roll them in granulated sugar.
- Once the glaze is set on the cake, place the sugared cranberries and orange zest all around the top of your Cranberry bread
- Any leftover cake can be stored in an air-tight container either at room temperature or in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- All ingredients must be at room temperature to properly emulsify: eggs, butter, etc.
- Fresh cranberries, Frozen or Dried cranberries can be used too
- Digital scale is required for a consistent, happy baking experience:)
- Do not overwork the cake batter, after the wet ingredients are whipped up, switch to a rubber spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients
- On top of the cake batter before baking apply a very thin butter line – this will help the Loaf cake to open up nicely and evenly instead of breaking in a random way in the oven
- Use parchment paper in your Loaf tin or butter and flour it so the cake can easily be removed after baking
- Do not skip the syrup, it will make your Cranberry Orange Bread extra moist
- Always pre-heat your oven and consider using a digital oven thermometer for the best results
- Baking this cake takes 45 minutes in my oven however focus on the texture, not the time. Apply the toothpick check (it should come out clean) to avoid raw cake
- Only glaze chilled loaf, never glaze warm loaf