Orange Cranberry Loaf Cake

This light and fluffy Orange Cranberry Loaf Cake is packed with dried or fresh cranberries and zesty orange flavour. The cake is simple to make in one bowl with no fancy equipment. And the decoration is so simple you can enjoy it freshly baked and warm from the oven without delay! Plus it’s an ideal Christmas Loaf Cake if you are looking for something a little lighter than traditional fruit cake.

Oven ready orange and cranberry cake ready to be baked in the oven.

My orange cranberry loaf cake is a delicious, fruity and moist loaf perfect for enjoying freshly baked warm from the oven. It mixes together two perfect winter flavours. The rich sharp cranberries and the fruity and juicy orange really do work well together in a light and fluffy cake.

It is such a great golden bake and the kitchen and house will smell incredible as the cranberry and orange loaf is cooking. You can cut the cranberries in half if you want but leaving them whole works really well. They pop and soften in the cake so as you cut through, they squish and the juice comes out. The mix of sharp and sugar really works very very well.

I love how the cranberries and orange slices look on the loaf as it’s ready for the oven. It looks so joyous and fruity. Definitely better cooked though!

orange and cranberry loaf cake dusted with icing sugar

Why you’ll love this Orange Cranberry Loaf recipe

  • It’s full of all your favourite Christmas flavours, the cranberry and orange go perfectly together and it smells incredible as it cooks. Your whole house will smell like warm sweet orange.
  • It’s light and fluffy so makes a perfect alternative to the rich and heavy Christmas pudding.
  • It looks beautiful on the table, warm and fresh from the oven.

Top Questions

Should you cut cranberries before baking?
Can I bake dried cranberries?
What is the difference between fresh cranberries and dried cranberries?
Should dried cranberries be soaked before baking?
What should I do if my cake is starting to brown but the inside isn’t cooked?
How long will the loaf cake keep For?

Do Cranberry and Orange Flavours Work Together?

Absolutely! Cranberry and orange are a match made in heaven. In fact, many cranberry sauce recipes like this one include orange as an accent flavour.

I love the combination so much that I use orange to spike the delicious cranberry topping on my No-Bake Cranberry Cheesecake. And both cranberry and orange feature flavours in my delicious Easy Cranberry Christmas Punch.

Orange Cranberry Loaf Ingredients

For the full recipe and instructions scroll to the bottom of the page for the recipe card.

Fresh Cranberries vs Dried Cranberries

This recipe for cranberry loaf cake is brilliant to make and versatile enough to be used with fresh cranberries or dried cranberries.

The fresh cranberries give a really tart flavour which can be nice if you like that little sharpness in the slightly sweet and fruity cake. The dried cranberries are slightly sweeter and will soften in the cake mix.

I really like both options but for ease, I often make this more often with dried. But this is only because it can be hard finding fresh cranberries outside of the festive period here in the UK.

Dried cranberry loaf cake is the exact same recipe as the fresh cranberry recipe but with slightly less dried cranberries in weight to make the cake work. The fresh ones weigh more so if you swap weight for weight, you will probably end up with a cake which is more cranberries than cake.

Alternatives to Cranberries

The first time I made this recipe it didn’t have the cranberries in and was a wonderfully simple and easy orange loaf cake.

I love using fresh orange in my bakes and this cake has juice freshly squeezed in. If I’m making it as easy orange loaf, leaving our the cranberries, I often drizzle some white icing made with orange juice and icing sugar over the top. Just to add some extra sweetness to serve.

You can also use other berries such as blackcurrants or blueberries. It is better to stick with small round berries like these. If you use something like raspberries, they contain much more liquid and could affect the overall texture of the cake.

Juicy sultanas are another great option.

Golden caramelised orange slice on top of a cake dusted with icing sugar.

Soft Brown Sugar

Most light cake sponge recipes use white sugar but using a soft brown sugar gives it a richer flavour. I love using brown sugar for winter bakes as the flavour of the sugar really changes the finished bake. It also smells incredible in the oven as it’s cooking.

You can use any light in colour brown sugar – this is sometimes labelled as light muscovado sugar. Don’t use dark brown sugar or dark muscovado sugar as this will change the flavour too much and overpower the other flavours.

Orange

I love this recipe as it has the fresh orange flavour which is used so much for Christmas bakes.

All you need for the most incredible orange-flavoured and scented loaf cake is one orange. You will use the juice and zest from half the orange in the cake. And then the other half is sliced into half moons and used as decoration.

The orange slices caramelise slightly as they’re cooked which creates a wonderful smell, flavour and look.

If you don’t have a fresh orange for your dried cranberry loaf cake, you can use satsumas, tangerines or even a blood orange instead. If you don’t have any fresh citrus fruits, you can use 1 tsp of a good quality orange extract instead.

I love to use orange as a flavour in both my baking and cooking. Don’t forget to check out some of my other orangey recipes:

How to Make Orange Cranberry Loaf Cake UK – Step by step

Keep scrolling for the full printable recipe with ingredient quantities and instructions.

  • Preheat the oven and line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  • Cream the butter and light brown sugar together until smooth. You can do this by hand or with an electric stand or hand mixer.

TOP TIP – If the sugar is a bit lumpy use the back of a fork to break up the sugar before adding it in.

step by step how to make cranberry cake
  • Add the eggs one at a time and beat in well after each addition.
  • Sift half the flour and the bicarbonate of soda and salt, then mix until just fully combined.
  • Add in the orange zest and juice, vanilla extract and the milk then stir again to combine.
mixing the Orange Cranberry Loaf batter
grating orange zest into the cake mix
  • Sift in the remaining flour and add the fresh or dried cranberries. Stir again until just combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin.
  • Thinly slice the leftover orange half into slices and add three to the top along with a few cranberries.

Tip – Don’t decorate the top with dried cranberries if you are using them as they will catch and burn in the oven.

fresh cranberries in the Orange Cranberry Loaf
dried orange slices for the Orange Cranberry Loaf
  • Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown and until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Allow cooling in the tin for at least 10 minutes before turning out.
  • To serve, cut into thick slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

Top Tip – If the cake looks like it is browning too quickly, you can lightly cover the top with foil.

How to decorate the Cranberry and orange loaf cake

You can simply leave the top of the cake plain if you prefer. But I love to add thin slices or fresh orange which makes it look beautiful as they cook and caramelise slightly in the oven.

When I use fresh cranberries, I also stud a few extras into the top of the unbaked sponge. I don’t do then when I’m using dried cranberries, however.

And of course, a light dusting of icing sugar never fails to bring a fun and festive snow-like effect. Make sure to dust just before serving your dried cranberry orange cake.

If you would rather decorate the cake with a light glaze, you can mix some orange juice with icing sugar and drizzle over once the loaf has fully cooled. This decoration is very similar to my Cranberry and Lemon Bundt Cake – you could even add the frosted cranberries along with some Dried Orange Slices.

Top Tips

  • You can cut your cranberries in half so you get more little sweet cranberry bites throughout your slice of moist orange cranberry loaf.
  • Dust sugar over your orange cranberry loaf UK just prior to serving as it looks wonderful and gives the effect of a light falling of snow over your dessert.
  • You can bake the orange cranberry loaf on Christmas day so your house smells warm and full of orange and cranberry.

Orange Cranberry Loaf Serving Suggestions

This cranberry orange cake is perfect when served straight from the oven with a helping of ice cream or double cream. It’s fresh, fruity and so light and fluffy.

Equipment

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  • 2lb Loaf tin
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Mixer (optional)

Substitutions and variations

Christmas Spice Loaf Cake

This recipe is perfect for the holiday period just as it is. But if you want to add a little extra spice, you can!

Simply add a little ground spice to the mix – around 1 tbsp in total. You can use a ready-made mix like British mixed spice or the US favourite pumpkin pie spice. Or you can mix your own blend. Choose from ginger, cinnamon, allspice or ground cloves to reach epic levels of flavour.

orange cranberry loaf cut in half

Chocolate cranberry loaf cake

If you are looking for these delicious flavours but with the delicious addition of chocolate? Look no further… I have a recipe for that. My Chocolate Cranberry Loaf Cake is topped with extra pieces of Terry’s Chocolate Orange for extra joy.

Or you could stir white chocolate chunks into this recipe to make a loaf cake version of my Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies.

More Loaf Cake Flavour Ideas

Once you’ve tried this Cranberry and Orange Cake, I know you’ll be wanting to try more easy recipes. To make it easy for you, here are some of my favourite loaf cake flavour combinations that you can check out!

Storing / Making ahead of time options

Freezing Cranberry Loaf Cake

Allow the loaf to cool completely then wrap in cling film (saran wrap). Make sure to wrap it well to prevent freezer burn – around 3 layers should work.

You can put the cake straight into the freezer like this. But be careful it doesn’t get squashed.

If you have the space available, putting the wrapped cake in a container will make sure it doesn’t get crushed.

Why Are Loaf Cakes So Easy To Make?

Unlike layer cakes or cupcakes, there is no need to add frosting or fill between layers. Which means that loaf cakes are generally quick and simple to make. Plus they can be served and eaten not long after they come out of the oven.

Most simple sponge loaf cakes like this one can be wrapped well and frozen. Then they’re ready to eat as soon as they’re defrosted.

The other bonus of loaf cakes is that they are really easy to cut and serve in even slices. And you can decide how thick the slices you cut are.

This recipe is written to be cut into 8 portions but you can easily make thinner slices and serve 10 to 12 or really go for it and just serve 6!

orange cranberry loaf slices on parchment paper with fresh cranberries and orange

Orange Cranberry Loaf FAQS

Should you cut cranberries before baking?

You can cut cranberries before baking, it means you get extra bites of cranberries in your orange cranberry loaf cake.

Can I bake dried cranberries?

You can bake dried cranberries! I bake dried cranberries in this orange cranberry loaf cake UK. Dried cranberries are sweeter than their tart fresh counterpart so I prefer baking with dried cranberries.

What is the difference between fresh cranberries and dried cranberries?

The difference between fresh cranberries ad dried cranberries is the flavour! The dried cranberries have slightly sweeter and will soften in the cake mix. But fresh cranberries are sharper and more tart.

Should dried cranberries be soaked before baking?

Yes, dried cranberries should be soaked before baking, this helps them to stay plump and moist during baking. Making your orange cranberry loaf all the better!

What should I do if my cake is starting to brown but the inside isn’t cooked?

With all cakes there is a worry about the top cooking before the inside has. This can depend on the heat of the oven, the height of the cake in the oven and the type of mix.

For this cake you should place the tin in the centre of the oven. If it starts browning too quickly make a little overcoat for the cake out of silver/aluminium foil. Place over the top of the cranberry and orange loaf cake making sure it doesn’t touch the cake or batter.

You ideally don’t want the aluminium foil getting stuck in the cake. It won’t matter if it does, it’ll still be edible but it might make the top of the cake not look as pretty. If it happens a dusting of icing sugar will hide anything.

How long will the loaf cake keep For?

The cranberry loaf will last about 3-5 days. (If you don’t eat it all first).

Store the Christmas loaf in a cool place in an airtight container for maximum freshness.

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Recipe

Orange Cranberry Loaf Cake

Sisley White
This light and fluffy Orange Cranberry Loaf Cake is packed with dried or fresh cranberries and zesty orange flavour. The cake is simple to make in one bowl with no fancy equipment. And the decoration is so simple you can enjoy it freshly baked and warm from the oven without delay! Plus it's an ideal Christmas Loaf Cake if you are looking for something a little lighter than traditional fruit cake.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Bakes, Cakes
Cuisine American, British, International
Servings 8 large slices
Calories 375 kcal

Equipment

  • 2lb Loaf tin
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Mixer (optional)

Ingredients
 
 

  • 125 g unsalted butter
  • 175 g soft brown sugar light muscovado
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 300 g plain flour / all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 1 Orange half juiced and zested, half sliced in whole rounds
  • 125 ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150 g fresh cranberries plus extra for decorating
  • OR
  • 100 g dried cranberries

Instructions
 

  • Heat oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan).
    Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth (by hand or electric mixer).
  • Add the eggs one at a time and beat in well after each addition.
  • Sift in half the flour along with the bicarbonate of soda and salt then mix until just fully combined.
  • Add in the orange zest and juice, vanilla extract and the milk then stir again to combine.
  • Sift in the remaining flour and add the fresh or dried cranberries. Stir again until just combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin.
  • Thinly slice the leftover orange half into slices and add three to the top along with a few fresh cranberries. Do not use any cranberries for decoration if using dried.
  • Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown and until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
    If the cake looks like it is browning too quickly, you can lightly cover the top with foil.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes before turning out.
    To serve, cut into thick slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

Video

Notes

Please note that the nutrition estimate assumes that fresh cranberries have been used. 
 
Best served with
• ice cream
• cream (especially good if its warm cake and cold cream)
• custard (sounds weird but it works)

Nutrition

Calories: 375kcalCarbohydrates: 55gProtein: 6gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 168mgPotassium: 155mgFiber: 2gSugar: 25gVitamin A: 523IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 59mgIron: 2mg

Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only.

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