Holiday Giving: Little Loaves of Cranberry Bread

December 11, 2010(updated on August 30, 2021)

jam and bread

This year for Thanksgiving, Scott and I drove down to Virginia to celebrate the holiday with his mother and extended family. We took a variety of treats to Joan, including bread and butter pickles and blondies (sadly, we forgot the pound of grated locatelli she had requested). In return, she sent us home with a big box of books she was finished with, the crystal wine glasses she had gotten for her engagement many years ago and a mini-loaf pan that she wasn’t using.

cranberry bread batter

The wine glasses are beautiful and the books have provided a great deal of pleasure in recent days. However, it was that mini-loaf pan that got my creative juices flowing. I started imagining holiday gift bags that included two or three different loaves of quick breads to accompany a jar of jam.

baked loaves

For my first round of quick bread baked into mini-loaves, I used a recipe for cranberry bread that I’ve made nearly 100 times in my lifetime. It comes from the back cover of a storybook called Cranberry Thanksgiving and I first begged my mom to help me make it when I was six years ago. She was quickly convinced of its virtues and it became a family tradition to make up several loaves of this bread each year and give them to our friends and neighbors for the holidays.

cranberry bread

I’ve altered the recipe a little from the one printed on the book, mostly in an attempt to make it healthier. I use whole wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose and have reduced the sugar a little (I’m okay with sweets in the morning, but I don’t want to feel like I’m eating straight cake). Typically, I will include toasted pecans in the batter, but left them out this time because my pecans had been in the fridge for some time (at least a year) and had that spongy, fridge taste. Nobody likes that.

The lack of pecans aside, I’m really happy with these little loaves. I took one to brunch with friends this morning and the four year old who was present delighted in unfurling it from its parchment and baker’s string wrappings. She loved that it was sized just for her and the rest of us just liked how good it tasted.

5 from 1 vote

Cranberry Bread


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup pulpy orange juice
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries chopped
  • 1 cup pecans chopped and lightly toasted (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your baking tin(s) and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the the butter and brown sugar together. Once they look creamy, add the egg, orange zest and orange juice. Beat to combine and then set aside.
  • Put the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into a medium bowl and whisk them to combine.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet batter and beat until they are just combined. Add the chopped cranberries and pecans (if you’re using them) and fold them into the batter.
  • Put the batter into your baking vessel of choice (if you’re using mini-loaves or muffin tins, make sure to portion out the batter evenly) and smooth out the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (if making small loaves or muffins) or 55-60 minutes (for a regular loaf).
  • Test the bread’s doneness by poking a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, you’re good to go. If it’s damp with batter, keep it in a bit longer (test after another five minutes).
  • Let the bread cool for ten minutes before turning it out of the pan(s). Let it cool thoroughly and then wrap for gifting (parchment paper, colored plastic wrap or foil are all festive options).

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36 thoughts on "Holiday Giving: Little Loaves of Cranberry Bread"

  • I love cranberries, any way, shape or form and this sounds great, even for a non-baker like me! Now…where do you get that baker’s string???

    1. I ordered the baker’s string from a cooking supply warehouse. However, I now have giant spools of it, more than I may ever be able to use. However, there are lots of people selling smaller amounts on Etsy for less than the $20 a spool that I paid. If you search for baker’s twine on Etsy, you’ll find a number of options.

  • I LOVED Cranberry Thanksgiving! (Actually all the Cranberry books…) Thanks for the reminder! I’ll have to dig out Cranberry Christmas for my girls…

  • Thanks! Replace the pecans with walnuts and it seems exactly like the recipe I grew up with, but my Mother misplaced.

  • Yum, these look so good! I did a whole week of cooking loaves and freezing them for holiday gifts. Have you ever used cranberry juice in place of the orange juice?

    1. I’ve never replaced the orange juice with cranberry. I love the flavor that the orange juice lends, but I think cranberry would also be nice.

  • This looks delicious. I can’t wait to try it! And I’m going to see if I can find that book – it sounds delightful.

  • Cranberry Thanksgiving! I totally remember that from my childhood! I had forgotten about it until now, but I always loved the bewhiskered man. I think I might need to try and dig this book up when I’m home for New Year’s. Otherwise I’ll have to buy it myself.

    Y’know, the recipe is also listed in the Amazon preview, which I think is pretty awesome. Might have to try this one.

  • That is an awesome pan! Muffin tins which are mini loaves! This might warrant a trip to Kitchen Kaboodle. I have mini loaf pans but they are individuals and it seems such a waste to heat the oven up for two little mini loaves, but 8 loaves would be great.

  • Cranberry Thanksgiving@!!! Thank you so very much for reminding us of that beloved story. We discovered them about 20 years ago when our daughter was tiny and we LOVED the whole series. Thanks for the holiday treat reminder!

  • Hi Marisa, you probably don’t remember me, I’m Roz, your “kindred spirit” up in Vancouver and we emails some months back. I have made your maple/rosemary nuts two Christmases in a row to give to our friends as gifts. They are AMAZING. I now have a blog of my own, and wonder if you’d mind if I put the recipe on my site (with a link to yours and full credit given of course!). I’ll be putting a photo of them on my post today, as I will be giving them out today, and I KNOW I’ll get recipe requests!!!

  • Oh, this recipe sounds delishious! I also have some mini loaf pans and I love the idea of the brown parchment wrapping. I am baking my breads today, pumpkin and banana. I enjoy your blog very much, Happy Holidays!

  • I had never heard of this story but will look at it at our local library when I make this recipe for my own 6 children. Thank you for sharing this recipe and story.

  • I use that exact same cranberry bread recipe! I too begged my mom to let me make that bread in 4th grade when I got that book out at Wyngate Elementary in Bethesda, MD. It has become a holiday staple. Wow –

  • Freeze your pecans. They keep well in freezer. I get shelled pecans every year from relatives, they seem to go for a couple years in freezer.

    1. I’m often very short on freezer space, so sometimes my nuts get bumped to other locations. They do okay in the fridge in the short term, but it’s true, it’s not ideal for long term storage.

  • I use that exact same cranberry bread recipe! I too begged my mom to let me make that bread in 4th grade when I got that book out at Wyngate Elementary in Bethesda, MD. It has become a holiday staple. Wow –

  • I have that same book, Cranberry Thanksgiving, and I make that same bread with my son, who LOVES cranberries. Thanks for doing a mini loaf rendition.

  • YUMMY!!

    i just made mini loaves of pumpkin bread to take for the holidays…i am now going to take cranberry bread too..thanks!! i love making the little loaves

    thank you for sharing!!

    Melissa from WA

  • I have some mini loaf pans, but I’m not sure about the size and cooking time? Please excuse- I am not a big baker!
    I looked up the book online to buy it and it is selling online for $100-$200!!! I would love to read it but I don’t think sooo……….

  • I just baked three standard sized loaves of cranberry nut bread last weekend. It’s one of my very few holiday traditions. I use a recipe that I got from a bag of cranberries years ago. Your recipe uses less sugar and more cranberries and butter. That sounds pretty yummy!

  • I love everything about this post! Thank you – I have cranberries in the fridge waiting on an assignment. Now I think they’re going into cranberry bread.

    Several years ago, I converted my family from canned cranberry to freshly-made cranberry jam. I just put up two batches of your cranberry jelly to give as Christmas gifts – a special request from my family. And as difficult as it was to convince anyone to try the pickled cranberries, once I served them on crackers with sweet havarti cheese, I’ve gotten requests for those, too.