Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

This cranberry orange pecan bread, with its perfect balance of tart and sweet, is so lovely it doesn't even need a schmear of butter. Lovely for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning—or any morning, for that matter.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread Recipe

This cranberry orange pecan bread has a subtle sweetness and slight tartness that makes it a welcome respite from whatever you’re doing any time of day, any time of year. It also makes a terrific gift, which is why the recipe makes not one but two loaves—one to gift, one to keep. Originally published November 10, 2009.Renee Schettler Rossi

*How To Bake With Cranberries

We’re quite smitten with the jarring tartness that happens when you bite into a burst of cranberry in this cranberry orange bread. But don’t be tempted to leave the cranberries whole in this recipe or any quick bread or coffee cake recipe. Why? Whole cranberries tend to float to the surface rather than staying pleasingly dispersed throughout the baked good. There’s a simple way to remedy this. Simply pulse the cranberries in your food processor until coarsely chopped but not mushy and then toss them in your quick bread batter. [Editor’s Note: We advise against attempting to chop fresh cranberries with a knife on a cutting board given just how maddeningly roly-poly they can be. It’s not only frustrating but a wee bit dangerous.]

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces) buttermilk (either low-fat or full-fat)
  • Zest and juice from 1 large orange (about 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated zest plus 1/4 cup juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) mild vegetable or olive oil, plus more for the pans
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen (do not thaw if using frozen cranberries)
  • 1/2 cup (1 3/4 ounces) pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly oil and flour two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.
  • 2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
  • 3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, orange zest and juice, and vanilla.
  • 4. Using a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and oil on medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and somewhat sandy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the eggs. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low again and add 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 1 minute. Add half the buttermilk mixture and mix briefly to incorporate. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk mixture and the remaining dry ingredients, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary and stirring only as long as is required to completely combine the ingredients.
  • 5. Coarsely chop the cranberries in your food processor. (See *How To Bake With Cranberries above.) Gently stir the cranberries and pecans into the batter, being careful not to overmix. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans so that each is slightly more than half full.
  • 6. Bake the cranberry orange pecan bread, rotating the pans every 20 minutes or so, until the loaves are golden brown with cracked tops and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. You want to start checking the bread at 45 minutes, although it could take as long as 75 minutes. Let cool in the pans for at least 10 minutes and then turn the loaves onto a wire rack to cool completely.

How To Make Cranberry Orange Pecan Muffins or Mini Loaves

  • If you prefer to make muffins or mini loaves of cranberry orange pecan bread to gift, simply divvy the batter among 12- to 18-cup muffin tins or 6 mini-loaf pans and start checking for doneness after 15 minutes for muffins, 25 minutes for mini loaves.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Polish your best silver tray. This cranberry orange pecan bread deserves royal treatment. It’s the right kind of quick bread to serve along with your holiday spread. Morning, noon, or night, this bread is for any hour of the day when you just want to spoil yourself or your guests. Citrus scents and tart cranberries make this loaf a joy to eat. You can make it in short order, and it’ll keep moist for days, or you can freeze it for later. Just be sure to pick up extra bags of fresh cranberries in the fall and freeze them. One loaf won’t be enough because your silver tray won’t stay full for long.

Comments

  1. Opted to try this recipe instead of my old tattered Boston Globe recipe, which I love. It was done BEFORE 60 minutes…in fact it was a little burned at the edges. I have an oven thermometer, too. I haven’t tasted it yet and hope not to be disappointed. Just fair warning…start checking for doneness at 45 minutes. Bon Appétit.

  2. As my neighbor Travis so aptly put it, “this bread is delish, even after the fourth slice!” Very yummy indeed. Totally agree with Susan, above, to start checking at the 45 minute mark. Even with the edges a little darker, the flavor blend will leave you wanting for more! This recipe is a KEEPER!

    1. Linda we are so glad that you and Travis enjoyed the bread, even after the fourth slice! Thanks for the tip on watching the timing.

    1. NO NO NO, you cannot replace buttermilk with eggnog. You need the acid in the buttermilk to interact with the baking soda to form bubbles and make the cake, cakey. The acid and the soda are the leavening agents.
      I make a caramel rum sauce to pour over each slice of this and it contrasts well with the tartness of the berries.

      1. Hi Marilyn, I’m not sure that you are going to get the correct rise in the cake by using a coffee creamer.

  3. This is a killer recipe but my cranberries all floated to the top of the bread during baking. Any suggestion on how to keep them from doing this so they are more spread out in the loaf? The best way to eat this is to toast a slice and put a hint of butter. WOW!!!

    1. Hi Sanja, the easiest way to keep berries dispersed in a cake or bread is to coat them in a bit of flour before incorporating them. Sorry that you had an issue with floating cranberries but so happy that you enjoyed the bread!

    2. Sanja, one more thought on the floating cranberries. We were all curious to hear of your situation because we’d never had this happen to us when we baked the bread. One of our recipes testers who was particularly intrigued by your comment did a little investigative reporting. Here’s what she had to say… “At Thanksgiving time when I used fresh cranberries for the very first time, I noticed they all floated to the top until boiled and ‘popped.’ You piqued my curiosity with this reader question, so I actually called Ocean Spray and they said there is an air pocket in each cranberry. Once the cranberry is ‘popped,” the air disappears. A good way around the floaters, which may or may not happen all the time—I guess it may be based on the crop—is to actually cut the cranberries in half. If the reader wants to use whole cranberries they may want to try popping each one to let the air escape by either piercing with a fork or knife or boiling them until they pop. Hope this helps.” We’re actually retesting the bread with chopped cranberries to see how this technique works, will let you know how it goes soon as it comes out of the oven!

      1. Thanks Beth and Renee! The airpocket in the berries makes sense, especially since the cranberries I had were very large—BIG airpockets! I just made another batch last night as mini loaves for holiday gifts and coarsely chopped half the cranberries and also added about 1/4 cup dried cranberries. The loaves look delicious and don’t have too many cranberries on top so I think that worked. I got 6 mini loaves from the recipe! I wish I could cut into one to see, but need to give them all away. :( Will be making more this weekend with this method and will certainly save a loaf for just me…so delicious!! Am happy to share a pic of my miniloaves :)

        Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread Recipe

        1. Hurrah! That’s splendid to hear, Sanja, thank you for sharing that with us! And the mini loaves are a brilliant holiday gift. I’m going to add a note to the recipe suggesting that and giving you all due credit. Love it. And I really appreciate you letting us know it seemed to work well. Wishing you all the magic of the season! Oh, and I would love to see your photo! Can you email it to me at renee@leitesculinaria.com?

      2. Renee; try making a Meyer’s Rum caramel sauce and pour that over a slice of this cake. It is a knockout.

          1. Renee; When I married my wife, 50 years ago, she brought with her a recipe for Cranberry Cake with Rum Sauce, which I was instructed NEVER to share with anyone outside the family. It was an exclusive heirloom recipe. The cake in this leitesculinaria segment is not the same, but close enough to warrant the sauce. Our cake is a more classic soft light cake with berries. We serve it in large squares, opened thru the middle of the piece and the sauce poured over each half. It is served with the thanksgiving meal on the dinner plate. I could tell a little white lie and say that you are like family to me since we have been in touch for such a very long time, and, we have…….I am dying to give the recipe out because it is so good, and, only three people know it today. Only one of those has a descendent who likes to cook or bake. So, in the next generation there will only be one person with the recipe. Then, probably, no one. I want to spread it around. It’s just a simple cake recipe with cranberries in the batter and a caramel rum sauce. I am having “schpilkus” here. Ask someone who is Jewish in your office to translate.

  4. This sounds yummy. I am wondering if I could use regular unsalted butter instead of oil. Looking forward to your feedback :-)

    1. Sue, lovely to hear you’re as enticed by this recipe as we are! As for swapping butter for the oil, I hesitate to encourage that simply because baking is such a precise science. We tested the recipe with oil and it worked marvelously. But I’m quite concerned that if you use butter the ratio of wet to dry will be thrown off and the texture, if not the taste, will be compromised. I’d stick with oil.

  5. Cranberry Cake and Rum Sauce
    ————————————————————
    CAKE
    4 cups flour
    2 cups sugar
    5 teaspoons baking powder
    6 tablespoons shortening melted
    1 1/3 cups whole milk
    4 cups cranberries raw or frozen bag
    2 large eggs

    SAUCE
    1/2 cup melted butter
    1 cup brown sugar light or dark
    2 tablespoons flour
    dash salt
    1 cup hot water
    3 tablespoons Meyer’s or Appleton Estate rum

    Instructions: The Cake: Sift the dry ingredients add the shortening, egg, milk, beat 2 minutes. Stir in the cranberries. Pour into greased 9″ X 13″ pan. Bake in 350 degree oven 45 minutes.

    Sauce: Cook in a sauce pan all the ingredients and add more rum if too thick.

    To Serve: Cut cake into 9 sections, serve, pour sauce over individual pieces.

  6. I decided to make the double loaf in a 13-x-4 pan, and it took exactly 85 minutes to bake. I also found that while I used frozen cranberries they somewhat floated to the top. I would still pulse them in the food processor anyway.

    Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread Recipe

    1. Don, that’s gorgeous! And thanks so much for the note on your frozen cranberries floating to the top. I just tweaked the instructions to chop the cranberries, whether fresh or frozen, to avoid them floating to the top.

  7. Made as directed and added 1/4 tsp orange extract and sprinkled turbinado sugar on top. Four mini loaves and one full loaf. Exactly like the cranberry muffins at The Chanler in Newport, RI. Moist, not too sweet. Oh, and I tossed the chopped cranberries with 1/4 cup sugar but did not increase the total amount of sugar in the recipe. Wonderful recipe for fresh cranberries.

    1. Jackie, so glad to hear you’re as tempted by this recipe as we are! Using dried cranberries is going to alter the balance of tart and sweet in the recipe since most dried cranberries are sweetened. Also, the density of dried fruit is different than fresh and so I worry your cranberries won’t remain evenly dispersed throughout the loaf but rather will sink to the bottom. I really think you’re better off using fresh or frozen cranberries. You won’t be disappointed!

  8. ooo this looks simply spectacular! do you think it would be possible to do half whole wheat flour, half all purpose?

    thank you so much!

  9. Was wondering if anyone has tried this with whole wheat flour or another type of flour? Also, has anyone substituted honey for the sugar?

    Thanks.

    1. Stephenie, we haven’t heard back from anyone who’s made those substitutions although I like the way you’re thinking. Baking is a rather tricky science and so I can’t guarantee that the recipe will work with those adjustments, especially the honey seeing as that skews the liquid to dry ingredients ratio and will also skew the sweetness as honey tends to be sweeter, ounce for ounce, than sugar. If you do give it a twirl with your proposed adjustments, kindly let us know!

  10. Dear Anonymous Stu,

    Thank you for sharing! I was going to ask if you would, and you beat me to it! It would truly be a shame for such a wonderful recipe to disappear. Now it will live on and be enjoyed for years to come!

  11. I made this recipe tonight and it was amazing! I was so happy the recipe had weight measurements :) My small tweaks:

    1. I used organic lemons for the zest/juice
    2. I substituted 2 handfuls on toasted sliced almonds for the pecans
    3. I reduced the sugar amount by a couple tablespoons
    4. I cut each cranberry in half with a knife rather than using the food processor.
    5. Using dark colored pans, I baked the breads at 350 F for about 55 min.

    The house smelled great! The bread was moist and tender. There was a nice balance between the tartness of the cranberries and lemon, and the sweetness of the bread overall. Definitely making this again! Thanks for sharing the recipe, David :)

    Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread

    Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread

    1. Hanaa, they’re gorgeous! I can smell them all the way in Roxbury. Also, thanks for your tweaks; I think they might come in handy for other bakers. Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. I made this recipe last night with the following modifications:

    1. Reduces the sugar to 2 cups
    2. Instead of orange zest, I used 3 tsp of grand marnier and 1.5 tsp of orange extract.
    3. Baked in 2 disposable silver bread pans
    4. Made the buttermilk using 4 tsp of lemon juice and 1 1/3 cups 2% milk, but only used what the recipe called for.

    It took about 85 minutes to brown both pans and I rotated the pans every 20 min. The edges came out crispy and the inside is very moist. I am wondering if it was supposed to take this long or if I messed something up. It tastes amazing.

    Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

    1. Mirit, your changes sound great. I’m delighted you enjoyed the recipe. As far as the baking time, the recipe states it could take as long as 75 minutes. Do you know if your oven is properly calibrated?

      1. My oven is only 18 months old and I haven’t had any issues with any other baking times so I have to assume that it is. I just wanted to make sure that it wasn’t anything I did that caused the long bake time, especially given my changes. I have only been cooking and baking for about a year, and I am very focused on the technical aspect, so I wanted to double check. Thank you so much for your feedback.

        1. Ah, got it, Mirit. Looking over your changes, nothing pops out at me as why they might have taken a bit longer to bake–with the exception of the temperature of your ingredients. If the milk and eggs were refrigerator cold, that could add a bit of time. Also, your pans look considerably larger than 9 x 5 inch loaves. That could have affected it a bit, but much. All in all, I wouldn’t worry about it. You done good!

  13. I made this recipe this afternoon for the first time and am so pleased with the loaves. I pulsed the cranberries in my food processor and had everything prepped and scaled ahead of time. The only thing I did that was slightly different was when mixing I didn’t use a stand mixer or a hand held. I did it all by hand. I added all the wet ingredients, mixed thoroughly, then added the dry ingredients in thirds until almost all incorporated before then adding the coarsely chopped cranberries and toasted pecans. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

    Cranberry Orange Pecan Cake

      1. Yes, throughout the entirety of the bread. It was so moist and delicious and an amazing addition to the overloaded plates of the many Thanksgiving side dishes and turkey. It’s not too sweet and the tang of the cranberries perfectly compliments the warm orange citrus notes. I also had a small piece toasted this morning and decadently schmeared some butter on it and was a total win.

        Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

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