Make this easy orange cranberry bread can be made with fresh or frozen cranberries for a sweet-tart brightness. Topped with a cinnamon streusel and an orange glaze to make it extra special and it will be perfect for your holiday table and gift giving!
[October, 2020: I've reworked the recipe and updated this post with all new pictures. Enjoy!]
Why this recipe works
- Uses fresh, frozen, or dried cranberries for sweet, tart flavor
- It's an easy quick bread recipe that comes together in a snap
- Perfect for the holidays or gift giving
I've rediscovered my fondness for the taste of fresh cranberries.
They're readily available in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and on through the December holidays, but you don't really see them outside that time.
But I love cooking, and especially baking, with fresh cranberries because of their burst of sweet-tart flavor. Cranberry sauce? Much better made with fresh cranberries, and a whole lot better than the canned stuff, to be sure!
I just like to give fresh cranberries a chance to shine, and a Glazed Orange Cranberry Bread really allows those fresh cranberries to show off. It's another showstopper for the Autumn baking season.
What you need
Cranberries: As I said earlier, fresh cranberries a wonderful in cranberry bread because of their burst of sweet-tart flavor. You can usually purchase cranberries either fresh (with the produce) or frozen (no need to thaw them before using them in the recipe). If you can't find fresh cranberries (or don't want to use them), you can always substitute dried cranberries in their place.
Orange juice: Oranges and cranberries are made for each other, and they star in this orange cranberry bread recipe. The citrus sweetness balances the fresh cranberries' tartness perfectly. And the sweet orange glaze brings it all together.
Orange vanilla extract: I add Fiori di Sicilia (an orange vanilla extract) to scent the bread and glaze with a subtle orange vanilla essence. If you prefer, you can substitute one teaspoon of vanilla extract and two teaspoons of orange zest in the batter.
Buttermilk: Because the baking soda needs to react with an acid, buttermilk is used for that and for tenderness. However, I use sweet cream buttermilk powder rather than fresh. I normally don't have fresh buttermilk on hand, and this staple keeps well in my pantry. Don't worry if you don't have the buttermilk powder or fresh buttermilk available. I'll give you a couple of substitution ideas in the Pro Tip below.
Cinnamon streusel: This easy cranberry orange bread recipe also has the added bonus of a cinnamon streusel because, well...it's streusel! It adds a nice texture to this sweet, moist cake. And for added crunch, you can add ½ cup of chopped pecans or walnuts to the batter if you'd like.
The remaining ingredients are standard for a quick bread recipe:
Flour: Needed for the orange cranberry bread's structure.
Sugar and brown sugar: Sweetens the quick bread, along with helping with browning the baked loaf.
Canola oil: Adds richness and moisture to the quick bread batter.
Eggs: Adds richness and flavor along with moisture to the batter.
Baking soda: Unlike yeast breads, quick bread recipes use a chemical leavening agent (baking soda or baking powder) to lift the loaf. This allows for a much shorter prep time (hence the name, "quick bread").
Salt: Helps to counterbalance the bread's sweetness.
How to make orange cranberry bread
Step 1: Make the streusel topping
Making the streusel topping is very similar to making biscuits. Whisk the flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Cut in the cold butter using a fork or your hands until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs (photo 1).
Place the streusel in the refrigerator while you make the batter. It's important to keep the streusel chilled after you make it. This keeps it from melting into the batter while the bread is baking.
Step 2: Make the quick bread batter
Whisk together the flour, buttermilk powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold in the cranberries, and set aside (photo 2).
Whisk the egg lightly, then add in sugar and brown sugar together until it's smooth (no lumps of brown sugar hiding in there). Whisk in the water, oil, orange juice, and Fiori di Sicilia (photo 3).
Slowly pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and gently whisk until there are no more lumps (try not to over-mix the batter). Fold in the chopped pecans or walnuts, if using (photo 4).
Step 3: Bake the bread
After you've poured the quick bread batter into a standard loaf pan that's been sprayed with baking spray, crumble the chilled streusel topping evenly and press it down gently so it sticks to the batter.
Bake at 350°F for 45 to 60 minutes, covering loosely with foil about halfway through to ensure even browning (photo 5).
Step 4: Make the glaze
When the bread has cooled, it's time to make the glaze. I sift the powdered sugar first so I don't have to chase down lumps. Add 1 tablespoon of the orange juice along with the Fiori di Sicilia and stir until you get a thick glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled bread and allow to set a few minutes (photo 6).
It's fun to let the glaze drip off the sides of the bread, but not to clean up the counter after. Put a paper towel under the cooling rack to catch the drips. Whether you choose to try and sample them is entirely up to you. I won't judge.
Orange cranberry bread will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, you can freeze the unglazed bread for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before glazing and serving.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
In the US, fresh cranberries are harvested in the Fall, and are usually available in the grocery stores from September to January. You'll find them either fresh or frozen.
If you can't find fresh cranberries, you can always substitute one cup dried cranberries, like I did for my Glazed Orange Cranberry Scones.
Pro Tip: Replacing fresh buttermilk in recipes
As I said earlier, I don't keep fresh buttermilk on hand as I don't use it that often.
That's why I like using sweet cream buttermilk powder. I can whisk the dry powder in with the dry ingredients, then add the correct amount of water in with the wet. The flavor is as close to fresh buttermilk as you can get.
If that's not an option for you, there are two ways to replace one cup of fresh buttermilk in a recipe:
- Whisk ½ cup cold water with ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt until smooth
- Measure one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup, then add enough milk until it reaches one cup. Stir and let the mixture sit for five minutes
The flavor may not be exactly like fresh buttermilk, but the acid needed to activate baking soda is present, and many times that's all you really are looking to get.
Make Orange Cranberry Bread for yourself or for gift giving
Glazed Orange Cranberry Bread is wonderfully moist and delicious. Sweet orange aroma surrounds you while the bright cranberries add bursts of their sweet-tart goodness. The glaze brings orange and vanilla to the mix, and the cinnamon streusel adds just the right amount of spice.
Together, all these flavors make one yummy treat for brunch or dessert. Plus, it's pretty to boot!
To make muffins with this batter, just fill the wells of a standard muffin pan ⅔ full. Top with the streusel as above, then bake at 350°F for around 20 minutes. Allow to cool and glaze.
Baking for the holidays
I love holiday baking. Honey Cake for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) in September, Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie for Thanksgiving, Pecan Snowballs for Christmas and Hanukkah. Food and holidays go together.
One December, I brought this Glazed Orange Cranberry Bread into work. Hey, I was new on the job and I wanted them to like me. It got rave reviews!
One of my co-workers actually said, "My Mother-in-law makes Cranberry Bread every year at Christmas, but I didn't like hers at all. I didn't think I liked Cranberry Bread, but I love this one!"
I replied, "I promise I won't tell her."
With that ringing endorsement, I encourage you to give this yummy tea bread a try. It will brighten your holidays and bring joy to your heart (or to your mouth, which is even better).
Wishing everyone a sweet, delicious holiday season. May good aromas come from your oven!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Most quick bread & muffin recipes can be made as loaves or bundt cakes.
Other presentation options for a one-loaf quick bread are 4 mini breads in mini loaf pans, 12 muffins in a standard muffin pan, or 24 muffin bites in a mini muffin pan. Great for breakfast or gift giving.
Remember, you aren't limited to one type of presentation for a recipe!
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Glazed Orange Cranberry Bread
For the streusel
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cubed
For the bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sweet cream buttermilk powder, see Recipe Notes
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup cranberries, fresh, frozen (no need to thaw), or dried
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
- 1 cup water, see Recipe Notes
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- ½ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, see Recipe Notes
- ½ cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped, optional
For the glaze
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice
- ¼ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
- Preheat oven to 350 °F. Spray a standard loaf pan with baking spray.
- Make the streusel: Whisk the flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Cut in the cold butter using a fork or your hands until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs. Place the streusel in the refrigerator while you make the batter. Chilling keeps it from melting into the batter while the bread is baking.
- Make the bread: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, buttermilk powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold in the cranberries, and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg lightly, then add in the sugar and brown sugar together until it's smooth (no lumps of brown sugar hiding in there). Whisk in the water, canola oil, orange juice, and Fiori di Sicilia.
- Slowly pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and gently whisk until there are no more lumps (try not to over-mix the batter). Fold in the chopped pecans or walnuts, if using.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Top evenly with the streusel, pressing it down gently into the batter so it sticks.
- Bake the bread for 45 to 60 minutes, covering loosely with foil about halfway through to ensure even browning. Use a cake tester or toothpick to check for doneness - if it comes out clean, the bread is done.
- Remove the pan from oven and cool on a wire cooling rack for 15 minutes. Transfer the bread from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the glaze: In a small bowl, sift the powdered sugar to remove any lumps. Add 1 tablespoon of the orange juice along with the Fiori di Sicilia and stir until you get a thick glaze. Adjust the glaze's consistency by adding more orange juice or powdered sugar as needed.
- Drizzle the glaze over the cooled bread and allow to set a few minutes. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
- Storage instructions: Orange cranberry bread will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, you can freeze the unglazed bread for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before glazing and serving.
- Substitute a mixture of ½ cup cold water and ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- Measure 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup, then add enough milk until it reaches 1 cup. Stir and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.
- Muffins: Fill the wells of a standard muffin pan ⅔ full. Top with the streusel as above, then bake at 350°F for around 20 minutes. Allow to cool and glaze.
- Bundt Cake or Mini Tea Breads: Spray a small 6-cup bundt cake pan or mini loaf pan with baking spray, being careful to get into all the grooves in the bundt pan. A bundt cake will bake for 35 to 45 minutes, while mini loaves will bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Perfect for gift giving!