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This orange cranberry 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 orange cranberry bread around!
It’s taken three years of trial and error to get this cranberry bread recipe perfected. Not that I’ve worked on it for three years straight.
Cranberries are only in season from mid-September through mid-November. You get what I’m saying, though. Three years of recipe testing during cranberry season.
The first year I used dried, sweetened cranberries and tried to plump them up a bit by soaking them in hot water. That loaf tasted like it had gummy candy pieces throughout, so it didn’t make the cut although it tasted great.
Last year, the recipe turned out too dry and way too dark. I can’t even remember where it went wrong. This is year three, and I’m happy to say it was a success!
This moist, orange cranberry 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!
Ingredients Needed to Make Cranberry Orange Bread:
I’ll list the ingredients we used here and list any substitutions in a separate section below.
- All-Purpose Flour – nothing fancy here. Regular all-purpose flour is my flour of choice for this recipe.
- Baking Powder – try to choose an aluminum-free baking powder. Sometimes, baking powders that aren’t aluminum-free can leave a metallic taste in baked goods.
- Salt – regular table salt works great in this recipe.
- Granulated (White) Sugar – we use white sugar or sometimes granulated cane sugar. Both work equally well.
- Orange Zest – one large orange provides the perfect amount of zest. Be sure not to include the white part of the rind. That is the bitter part.
- Buttermilk – full fat buttermilk is my favorite choice. The rich flavor gives this bread an amazing flavor!
- Canola or Vegetable Oil – these oils are interchangeable in this recipe. Either one will work great.
- Orange Juice – freshly squeezed orange juice is what I use both in the bread and the glaze.
- Eggs – I used large, white eggs right out of the fridge!
- Vanilla – Real vanilla extract is my favorite for all of our recipes. It has a wonderful flavor.
- Fresh Cranberries – Since this bread was made around the holidays, I was able to find fresh cranberries. They are my pick, and will float to the top of the bread to make the pretty pinkish red spots.
- Powdered Sugar – regular powdered sugar will work great!
Equipment Needed to Make Cranberry Bread:
Let’s chat about the basic equipment you might need to make this holiday cranberry bread. Here’s a list of some of the items we used, but the exact models and types can vary.
- 9 x 5-Inch Loaf Pan – This is a very basic metal loaf pan. Any brand will work. A glass loaf pan may be substituted, but the cook times will need to be adjusted.
- Stand Mixer – We used a refurbished KitchenAid mixer. Any mixer will work whether it’s a stand mixer or a hand mixer.
- Juicer – This is a simple juicer that easily juices citrus fruits. We’ve had the same one for years, and it works great!
- Microplane – I love our micorplane! It’s great for finely grating the zest on fruits and even grating cheese in a pinch.
- Bread Knife – This is a great find for an inexpensive bread knife! It comes in two lengths, and works for both cake and bread.
How to Make Orange Cranberry Bread:
Now it’s time for the good stuff! The instructions for the cranberry bread. 🙂 I love how quickly this recipe comes together in regards to prep work. The longest part is the baking time.
- Start by letting the oven preheat while you’re making the batter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set it aside. In a separate small bowl, stir together the orange zest and sugar.
- The sugar should turn a light orange color and have a slightly damp consistency from the oils in the zest. Set that bowl aside as well.
- I used a stand mixer for the remainder of the recipe, but a large bowl and hand mixer or whisk will also work.
- Place the buttermilk, oil, eggs, orange juice and vanilla in the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix the ingredients on low until they are combined.
- Add in the flour mixture and orange zest and sugar. Continue to mix on low until the batter resembles a muffin or pancake batter.
- Next, add the cranberries. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the fresh cranberries into the batter.
- Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan. The cranberries float naturally, so there’s no need to try and push them down.
- They’ll just float back to the top. Place the pan in the oven, and bake for 70 to 75 minutes.
- After the cranberry bread finishes baking, allow it to rest for 5 to 10 before removing it from the loaf pan and transferring to a cooling rack. While the bread cools, make the orange glaze.
- In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar and orange juice until creamy. The orange juice amount can be adjusted, so the glaze is the thickness you like.
- Once the bread cools completely, drizzle with the orange glaze. Slice and serve!
Tips, Substitutions, and Common Questions About Orange Cranberry Bread:
- How do you make orange cranberry bread without orange juice? 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 extract, depending on taste. Substitute the orange juice with equal parts of milk.
- How do you keep the bread from browning too quickly while it bakes? Make an aluminum foil tent to place over the bread. I did this and added the tent about 15-20 minutes before the cranberry bread finished baking.
- How do you bake at a high altitude? I live in the mountains. Do I need to adjust the recipe? We live at around 1,300 feet and are in a mountain range. Although, it’s not super high in terms of elevation, we’ve certainly had to make changes from baking at 30 feet above sea level to 1,300 feet. Here’s a great resource we found that explains how to make adjustments for high altitude baking.
- Want nuts in the bread? Feel free to add your favorite as an optional ingredient.
- What can I use as a substitution for buttermilk? Add half a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice 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.
- How can I keep the cranberries from floating to the top of the bread? Our readers have tried a couple of different things. 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.
- Can I use bottled or carton orange juice? Yes, absolutely! The orange flavor may not be as tangy and robust, but it will still work.
Looking for other sweet dessert bread recipes? Give these holiday favorites a try!
- Classic Pumpkin Bread
- Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls
- Cinnamon Rolls (A Christmas Morning Favorite)
- Lemon Blueberry Bread with Sweet Glaze
Orange Cranberry Bread with Glaze
- 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.
- Add to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl and hand mixer), the buttermilk, oil, orange juice, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined.
- Add the flour mixture and the orange zest/sugar mixture. Continue to mix on low speed until all the ingredients are smooth like muffin batter.
- 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 70-75 minutes. If the bread begins to become too brown, 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 5-7 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.
- Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.