Fresh Cranberry Bread

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This cranberry bread recipe has fresh orange juice and whole fresh cranberries in a light and airy quick bread with a sparkling sugar topping. Prep the batter in just 10 minutes and have a perfect holiday breakfast ready to go in no time.

A loaf of cranberry bread is on a white platter with fresh cranberries sprinkled around for garnish.

Of all the quick bread recipes I've baked over the years, this fresh cranberry bread might just be my new favorite.

A sweet orange juice flavored quick bread with whole fresh cranberries that burst in every juicy bite with a crunchy sugar topping is hard to resist.

While I made it for a regular week "just because" I regret not baking one for Thanksgiving morning. I just might have to add it to our Christmas breakfast menu in a few weeks!

You could bake a loaf now and freeze it for later if you want to get a jump start on your holiday baking. While you're at it, bake 2 and give one to a friend!

Jump to:

Why This is the Best Recipe

I love baking sweet quick breads for a delicious breakfast treat but I think this is the best cranberry bread recipe because:

  1. Easy to Prep: The quick bread batter comes together really quickly and has a perfect light and airy texture.
  2. Whole Fresh Cranberries: I love the juicy burst of cranberry in each bite, the flavor and texture is so wonderful compared to dried cranberries which can be overly chewy in some baked goods.
  3. Festive Sparkling Sugar Topping: As delicious as a vanilla glaze can be on a quick bread, I love the quick ease of using sparkling sugar for the topping on quick breads and muffins. The sparkle top is perfect for the holiday season.

Ingredients

The ingredients to make cranberry bread are on the counter.

This easy quick bread only needs a few ingredients:

  • Fresh Cranberries: Whole fresh cranberries are essential. Dried cranberries will not have the same flavor or texture. If cranberries are out of season, you can use frozen cranberries, no need to thaw them first. You just might need a little more baking time.
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • Egg
  • Orange Juice: I just used a regular prepared orange juice but if you have a fresh orange that is even better. You might consider adding some orange zest to the batter while you're at it, too.
  • Butter

OPTIONAL: I love using sparkling sugar for the top of baked goods because they end up looking so pretty and I avoid the need for a glazed topping.

Sparkling sugar doesn't dissolve into the baked good like normal sugar does, instead it leaves sparkly in-tact sugar crystals over the top. If you can't find it at your grocery store, you can order an affordable bottle of it here.

A container of King Arthur Baking's sparkling sugar sits on the counter in front of the quick bread pan.

Whisk the Dry Ingredients First

The key to a light and airy quick bread is all in how you layer the ingredients.

It is important to start by whisking just the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the bowl and whisk them together.

The flour, sugar, and other dry ingredients are in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk the Wet Ingredients Together

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the melted butter and orange juice first.

Add the egg to the butter mixture and whisk it in until smooth.

The egg, butter, and orange juice have been whisked together in a separate small bowl.

Fold the Batter Together

Pour the butter mixture into the flour and gently fold it all together with a spatula.

Do not over mix the batter. Just stir it enough times for there to be no more dry pockets of flour and then stop.

The wet ingredients have been added to the dry ingredients.

Add the whole fresh cranberries to the batter and gently fold them in.

The fresh cranberries have been added to the mixing bowl.

Baking Instructions

Rub softened butter along the inside of an 8x4-inch bread pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour into the pan and shake it around to coat.

Spoon the quick bread batter into the pan and smooth it out into an even layer. The batter will be quite thick at this point.

The cranberry bread batter has been leveled into a bread pan.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Variations

I love the simplicity of this classic cranberry bread but there are definitely fun ways you could make easy variations:

Cranberry Nut Bread: Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts to the bread batter along with the cranberries.

White Chocolate Cranberry Bread: Add 1/2 cup white chocolate chips along with the cranberries.

Lemon Cranberry Bread: Substitute Meyer lemon juice for the orange juice.

Glazed Cranberry Bread: Skip the sparkling sugar and coat the bread with this easy vanilla glaze.

Make Ahead Tips

You can store the unsliced cranberry bread at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

It would taste great if you gently warmed it in the oven before serving.

Quick breads freeze really well, too.

Let the cranberry bread cool completely before wrapping tightly in aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Let the bread thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat it gently in the oven before serving if desired.

The bread is fresh from the oven and resting on a wire cooling rack.

Serving Suggestions

The loaf of homemade cranberry bread is on a white platter, two slices have been sliced so you can see the texture of the quick bread and the large, whole cranberries.

We enjoyed this cranberry bread as a sweet breakfast treat during a busy week in December but it would make an incredible Thanksgiving morning breakfast or make ahead Christmas breakfast item, too.

If you want to dress it up a little for the holiday, you could make a batch of sugared cranberries for garnishing the top of the bread or scattering on the serving platter.

More Cranberry Recipes

If you love baking with fresh cranberries like I do, you won't want to miss these other delicious recipes:

More Quick Bread Recipes

Looking for more quick breads for your weekend brunch? Here are a few of my favorites:

📖 Recipe

A loaf of cranberry bread is on a white platter with fresh cranberries sprinkled around for garnish.

Cranberry Bread

5 from 22 votes
Simple and elegant, this fresh cranberry quick bread makes an excellent brunch item for adding to a holiday menu at Thanksgiving or Christmas time. Fresh whole cranberries in a slightly sweet bread base with a hint of orange has a festive sparkling sugar top.
PREP TIME 25 minutes
COOK TIME 45 minutes
YIELD 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon for the bread pan
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp butter melted
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 tbsp sparkling sugar optional

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x4-inch bread pan with softened butter and sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour. Set aside.
  • Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda to a large bowl and whisk them together.
  • In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg, orange juice, melted butter and water until smooth.
  • Add the liquid to the dry flour mixture and fold together until just combined. Add the fresh cranberries and fold them into the bread batter.
  • Spoon the bread batter into the prepared bread pan and smooth it into an even layer. Sprinkle the sparkling sugar, if using, evenly over the top.
  • Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Recipe Notes

Variations

I love the simplicity of this classic cranberry bread but there are definitely fun ways you could make easy variations:
Cranberry Nut Bread: Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts to the bread batter along with the cranberries.
White Chocolate Cranberry Bread: Add 1/2 cup white chocolate chips along with the cranberries.
Lemon Cranberry Bread: Substitute Meyer lemon juice for the orange juice.
Glazed Cranberry Bread: Skip the sparkling sugar and coat the bread with this easy vanilla glaze.
COURSEBread
CUISINEAmerican

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The photo collage shows the sliced cranberry bread next to a photo of the ingredients needed to make it.

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