I’m running through the Wilson family’s greatest holiday baking hits in my kitchen, counting down the days until I spend Christmas with my family in Los Angeles. Wait… doesn’t Wilson Family’s Greatest Holiday Baking Hits sound like a great idea for a television show? Oh the butter. Oh the antics. Now, while dad is chief pie baker and cookie connoisseur, Mom Wilson has some tried and true holiday recipe GEMS I tell ya. See, of course: Mom’s Famous Peanut Butter Balls. BUT one of my favorite December treats to come from the Wilson oven is my mom and grandmother’s recipe for Cranberry Orange Bread.
By ‘bread’ I certainly mean ‘sweet bread’ because this bread is more of a cake baked in a loaf pan. The crumb is tender but sturdy. You could slice a piece, sandwich it in a paper towel and hand it across the counter without it falling apart which, is certainly the polite and familiar thing to do.
The highlight of this bread is the sweet orange flavor accented by bursts of tart fresh cranberries. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and bright topped with a simple cinnamon crunch – FRIENDS this bread is a perfect flavor pairing.
I especially love a slice lightly toasted and smeared with butter alongside a too-hot cup of coffee. Can you imagine? I know you can… hit that scroll for the recipe.
Here’s what you’ll need for this Cranberry Orange Bread recipe:
• all-purpose flour
• baking powder, baking soda, salt
• granulated sugar
• unsalted butter, at room temperature
• orange zest and orange juice
• large eggs
• fresh cranberries (though if you’re using frozen cranberries, thaw and drain them)
• vanilla extract
• flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter for the crumble topping.
• powdered sugar and milk for an easy glaze.
We’ll start by making the batter. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and all) in a large bowl. Add room temperature butter and break the butter into the flour until the mixture is coarse and sandy and only small butter bits remain. I use my fingers for this – it’s easiest. It might seem strange that we’re not creaming our butter and sugar for this recipe. We’re using a technique called reverse creaming that I talk about here.
In a medium bowl whisk together orange juice, egg, and vanilla extract.
Pour the wet ingredients all at once to the flour mixture and stir to combine into a thick batter.
Fold fresh cranberries into the batter.
Fresh cranberries are key here! Dried cranberries aren’t as juicy or tart. You want that pop of tartness to balance all the sweet orange. Frozen cranberries work well for this recipe. Just thaw and drain before folding into the batter.
Spoon batter into a parchment-lined and greased pan.
Parchment isn’t essential but it sure makes the bread easier to lift out of the pan after baking.
It’s optional, but I like a crumble topping on this cranberry orange bread. It adds a nice crunch to the top of the bread. If you wanted to add pecans or walnuts, that would also be nice!
Bake the loaf to golden. Cool completely on a wire rack before adding a drizzle of glaze.
This is the sort of cake that’s perfect in the morning with a cup of coffee, a definite afternoon snack, and a really nice sneak-to-the-kitchen-after-dinner bite. It’s an everything sweet bread that also packages nicely for gifting.
This baked loaf also freezes super well. Just double wrap and freeze for up to a month. Thaw in the refrigerator and toast gently before serving.
Mom has it right!
Other divine cranberry bakes include: Cranberry Cream Cheese Breakfast Rolls.Print
A perfect holiday sweet bread with orange, tart cranberries, and a crunchy cinnamon top.
For the Cake:
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 grans) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 heaping cup coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
For the Topping:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 1/4 cup (31 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) powdered sugar and a splash of milk for an optional glaze
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Line loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on each side. Grease the parchment paper and dust with flour on all sides. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add chunks of butter and work the butter into the flour with your fingers. Try to blend the butter into each bit of the dry ingredients. The mixture will resemble a coarse meal with a few tiny butter bits.
- In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla extract.
- Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir together to incorporate. Add the cranberries and fold into the batter.
- To make the topping combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with topping. Place in the oven and allow to bake until the cake is golden brown and the center is cooked through. Don’t shift or move the cake for at least 30 minutes through baking. It can be fragile as it rises. Insert a skewer into the center of the cake to ensure that it’s cooked through, about 50 to 60 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf from the pan and allow to cool further on a wire rack.
- For the glaze I whisked together 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and just a splash of milk. I drizzled it over the cooled coffee cake.
Photos with my friend Jon Melendez.