Cranberry Orange Loaf – A sweet bread flavored with fresh orange zest and loaded with cranberries. Topped with a sweet orange icing and candied orange slices and cranberries.
Fruit is hard to come by this time of year, which is hard for me because baking with fruit it one of my favorite things. But once again, I was reminded of the lovely cranberry. I have made desserts with cranberries (and even some drinks!) and they add such a lovely tartness to sweet treats. And when paired with orange, the flavor is unstoppable.
That is why I chose to make a Cranberry Orange Loaf. It reminds me of cranberry orange muffins that I used to love from Starbucks. Not only does the cranberry add tart flavor, but it also leaves the center extremely moist that it’s impossible to put down once you’ve had a bite.
To give this loaf a sophisticated feel, I added candied orange slices and cranberries on top. The fruit is cooked to remove the bitterness and then it’s soaked in a simple syrup to make them sweet. Don’t they add such a beautiful look?
Making this loaf
The process of making this loaf can be split up into two parts:
- Making the cake
- Making the topping
The cake is the easy part -it’s a simple cake batter made with the typical cast of ingredients. Flour, sugar, butter, and milk are all used in this recipe, along with orange juice, orange zest, and cranberries.
No sinking cranberries
Do you see how there are cranberries all through the loaf? That means that the batter was thick enough to hold the cranberries in place so they wouldn’t sink to the bottom. For a little added insurance, the cranberries are lightly coated in a little flour to help them stay in place.
Topping the loaf
Once the cake is baked and slightly cooled, it’s time to top with an orange icing. The icing is simply made with orange juice, orange zest, and powder sugar. It’s kept thick enough so that it will set firm, but loose enough so that it drizzles.
Candied orange slices and cranberries
The final decoration is the candied fruit. It’s a simple process but it does take some time. I recommend starting this while the cake is baking so that they’re ready once the cake is finished and beginning to cool.
The process goes like this:
- Cooking the fruit – The fruit is cooked to remove the bitter flavor. The cranberries will turn the water pink but that’s okay. The oranges will get a nice reddish hue, that’s perfect for the decoration.
- Soaking in syrup – The cooked fruit is then soaked in a syrup to give it sweetness.
- Coating in sugar – After the fruit is soaked in syrup, it’s drained to remove the excess liquid and then rolled in granulated sugar.
Tips and Tricks
- To be efficient with your time, make the candied fruit while the cake is baking. They should be done when you need them for topping the cake after cooling.
- I have only tried this recipe with fresh cranberries. Frozen berries may work, but I recommend thawing them and draining the excess liquid.
- Make sure to test the center of the cake with a toothpick before removing from the oven. It may look done but the center will still be slightly raw. If the cake is browning fast but the center is not done, you can cover with aluminum foil to keep it from browning any more.
Cranberry Orange Loaf
For the loaf:
- 1½ cups plus ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter unsalted, softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
For the topping:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- ¼ teaspoon fresh orange zest
- 1 medium orange
- ½ cup fresh cranberries
- 1¼ cup granulated sugar divided
- 1 cup water
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
- Add softened butter and granulated sugar to a bowl of a stand mixer. Beat together on medium until a paste forms. This will take about 3 minutes. On low, add eggs, one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix to ensure it's all combined.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low until combined. Add orange juice, zest, and milk to the batter and mix on low until combined. Add the rest of the flour and mix on low just until combined. Mix cranberries with ½ tablespoon of flour and gently fold them into the batter. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and spread into an even layer.
- Bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. while the cake is baking, make the candy fruit topping using the recipe below.
- When cake is done, remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Use a knife to release the edges of the cake from the pan. Flip pan to release cake and finish cooling on a wire rack. When it's barely warm, cover with icing (recipe below), candied orange slices, and candied cranberries (recipe below).
For the icing:
- Add 1 tablespoon of orange juice to powdered sugar and zest in a small bowl. If it's too thick, add a little bit more juice until it slowly runs down a spoon.
For the candied oranges and cranberries:
- Slice orange into ¼-inch slices. Place in a large sauce pan with ½ cup of cranberries. Fill with water until the slices are covered. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.
- Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of granulated sugar to a skillet. Stir together and place over medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, add drained orange slices and cranberries. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the orange slices are translucent. Let cool in the syrup and then drain on paper towels for about 20 minutes.
- Once the fruit is drained, dip in remaining granulated sugar. Pick the prettiest pieces to decorate the cake. Some of the cranberries will have deflated so just use the ones that still look great.