Cranberry Orange Bread is incredibly moist, dense, and full of orange and cranberry in every bite. It’s even topped with a sweet orange glaze that puts it over the top. We think it’s the best cranberry orange bread around!
It’s taken three years of trial and error to get this cranberry orange bread recipe perfected. Not that I’ve worked on it for three years straight.
Cranberries are only in season from around October through December. You get what I’m saying, though. Three years of recipe testing during cranberry season. This moist cranberry orange bread is sweet, a little tart, and wonderfully dense. It’s the perfect dessert for any holiday dinner table.
Of course we’re also partial to our apple crisp and cherry crisp, too! We’ve even turned this bread recipe into cranberry orange muffins with streusel topping, so it’s ok to enjoy it for breakfast and dessert!
A Few Things to Know About This Cranberry Orange Bread:
- This is bread, not cake. The texture of the finished bread is not going to feel like a light, fluffy cake. It’s moist and dense. The closest it comes to cake is maybe a pound cake.
- The glaze is optional. The orange glaze is optional, but it does add some sweetness to the finished bread.
- Fresh cranberries work best. The recipe was developed for fresh cranberries, so those are recommended.
- Comments: Our readers have provided some great feedback about their experiences with this bread. It’s all listed in the comment section.
How to Make Cranberry Orange Bread
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a small bowl, use a spoon to combine the granulated sugar and orange zest. The sugar should turn light orange in color. Set aside.
- Take a third bowl, and whisk together the buttermilk, orange juice, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
- Add the flour mixture and orange sugar to the wet ingredients, and whisk to combine. The batter should be fairly smooth and similar to muffin batter. Don’t overmix or the bread will be tough in texture.
- Fold in the cranberries, and transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan.
- Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet, and bake for 65 to 75 minutes or until a skewer or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (See Tips section below for more information.)
- Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the bread cools, make the orange glaze by combining powdered sugar and orange juice. Add additional orange juice until the desired consistency is reached.
- Drizzle the cooled cranberry orange bread with the glaze, slice, and serve.
Tips and Variations for Cranberry Orange Bread:
- Baking Variations: This cranberry orange bread bakes differently depending on elevation, oven type, pan type, etc. I’ve baked this bread at 1,300 feet elevation and at 160 feet elevation, and the results were slightly different. Gas ovens versus electric oven and glass pans versus metal pans will change the outcome slightly. Check out this article for high altitude baking and this article for how to use metal pans versus glass pans to achieve the best outcome.
- The bread isn’t domed: This recipe will work in a smaller 8.5×4.5-inch loaf pan, but the cook time will need to be adjusted a bit. It will dome a little better in a smaller pan.
- Add some texture: Toss some toasted pecans or walnuts to the batter for some added taste and texture.
- Don’t forget the tent: If the bread begins to brown too quickly, make a tent out of aluminum foil and loosely drape it over to the top to prevent over browning.
- Make a vanilla glaze: Make a vanilla by omitting the orange juice and using milk instead. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla for a different flavor variation.
- Use a microplane: Use a microplane to finely zest the orange and bring out all the natural oils. The zest will flavor the sugar beautifully and add a ton of orange flavor.
- Swap out the oil: Not a fan of canola or vegetable oil? Swap it out with another neutral tasting oil of your choice.
What can you substitute for orange juice in cranberry orange bread?
In the bread portion of the recipe, substitute the orange juice for equal parts of buttermilk. Then add 1 to 2 teaspoons of orange extract. For the glaze, use a 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of orange or vanilla extract, depending on taste. Substitute the orange juice with equal parts of milk.
What can I use as a substitution for buttermilk?
Add half a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup, and add enough milk until it measures 1/2 cup. Stir, and let sit for five to ten minutes before adding to the other ingredients.
Can I use dried or frozen cranberries instead of fresh cranberries?
Yes, our readers have been successful with this substitution. The dried or frozen cranberries will not float to the top of the bread. We like to add them to a little hot water and allow them to soak for 10 minutes or so. The cranberries plump up a bit and have a tad more volume.
How can I keep the cranberries from floating to the top of the bread?
Toss the cranberries in flour before adding them to the batter or chop them into pieces. Both of those work to keep the cranberries from floating to the top of cranberry bread.
Can you make cranberry orange bread gluten free?
Yes! We’ve had readers report good success by swapping out the all-purpose flour with a 1:1 substitute like Bob’s Red Mill Baking Flour, Measure for Measure, or Cup 4 Cup. You’ll want to make sure the other ingredients are also gluten free, too.
Can this cranberry orange bread be baked in mini loaves?
Yes, it sure can! Several of our readers have made the recipe into 3 mini loaves and 5 mini loaves depending on the pan size. The bake time varies, of course, so we suggest watching the loaves closely so they don’t overbake.
Storage and Freezing
Room Temperature: Cranberry orange bread can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2-3 days. It does begin to get slightly gummy after a couple of days, so be mindful of that. We don’t recommend storing at room temperature if you’ve used dairy in the glaze in place of orange juice.
Refrigerator: This bread stores well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Freezer: Cranberry orange bread freezes well as a loaf or individual slices. Wrap the cooled loaf or individual slice well in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh for about 2 months.
Thawing and Reheating: To thaw frozen bread, place it in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat the bread by heating it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds or until the desired temperature is reached. This bread is best served slightly warm or at room temperature.
- 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
- 1/2 Cup Buttermilk
- 1/2 Cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
- 1/2 Cup Orange Juice
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
- 1 1/2 Cups Fresh Cranberries
- 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoons Orange Juice
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9 x 5 - inch loaf pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In a separate small bowl, use a spoon to mix the sugar and orange zest until the sugar becomes light orange in color. Set aside.
- Take a third large bowl and whisk the buttermilk, oil, orange juice, eggs, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the orange zest/sugar mixture, and whisk until just combined. Don't overmix!
- Next, add the cranberries and use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir until well incorporated.
- Transfer the batter to the greased loaf pan. Place in the oven and baked for 65-75 minutes. If the bread begins to brown too quickly, place a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top to prevent burning.
- The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a very light crumb. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before transferring from the pan to a cooling rack.
- While the bread cools, make the glaze.
- In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar and orange juice.
- Whisk or use a hand mixer on low until the glaze is smooth and creamy. Adjust the amount of orange juice to reach desired consistency.
- After the bread cools completely, drizzle the glaze over the top, slice, and serve.
- See post for storage options.
*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 1 slice of bread (one tenth of the loaf). Actual calories will vary.
*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.
*Please be sure to see the post and the comments section for additional tips, substitutions, and baking variations. Our readers have provided several wonderful comments regarding changes they've made to this recipe that might be helpful for others. As of 10/19/21 we have added some of the information from the comment section to the content in the post, as well as, a couple of new photos.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 344Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 193mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 1gSugar: 34gProtein: 4g
*The calories are an estimate and are based on the ingredients and serving size listed. The calories can vary depending on the brand of product purchased.