This festive Cranberry Orange Carrot Cake puts a spin on traditional carrot cake. You’ll find fresh oranges, carrots, and bursts of sweet-tart cranberries in every bite! It’s a loaf cake that’s easy to make gluten free and decorated with an orange glaze and sugar-coated cranberries.
This Cranberry Orange Carrot Cake is a must-try for the holiday season. At the heart of this quick bread recipe is a very soft and moist carrot cake made with good-for-you ingredients, including shredded carrots, freshly squeezed orange juice, cranberries, and maple syrup.
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As a result, this carrot cake loaf is a wholesome dessert that you can and should feel good about enjoying for breakfast, brunch, and as an indulgent sweet holiday treat.
The cake also freezes flawlessly, helping you spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the holiday celebrations. You’ll love having a loaf or two stashed for whenever you’re craving something sweet or when you need a centerpiece for the dessert table.
Ingredients and substitutions
This festive orange cake is easy to make with mostly wholesome ingredients, filling it with the comforting flavors of fall and winter. These are the ingredients you need:
- Flour – You can make this cake with all purpose flour or a 1:1 gluten free flour blend. I don’t recommend using almond flour.
- Carrots – Freshly grated carrots play a role in flavor and moisture. They also give the cake a boost of health benefits, like beta carotene, fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants.
- Maple syrup – I like sweetening healthy desserts with pure maple syrup, as it adds a warm and cozy flavor you can’t get from other sweeteners.
- Plain yogurt – This is the secret ingredient to a perfectly tender, fluffy, and healthy sweet treat.
- Oranges – You will need at least one orange for the juice and zest, but I like having an extra for garnishing.
- Cranberries – If you can’t find fresh cranberries, you can substitute a bag of frozen cranberries. Thaw and blot them dry before folding them into the cake batter.
- Orange glaze – This simple loaf cake is decorated with a refreshing and sweet orange glaze. All you need is powdered sugar, water, and orange zest. Easy peasy!
How to make cranberry orange carrot cake
Step 1: Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, shredded carrots, maple syrup, yogurt, vanilla extract, orange zest, and orange juice together.
Step 2: Add the dry mixture to the bowl of wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. Fold in the cranberries and pour the batter into a prepared loaf pan.
Step 3: Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave it to cool while you prepare the sparkling cranberries and orange glaze.
Step 4: For the sparkling cranberries, dissolve the sugar in water to make a simple sugar syrup. Let it cool, then add the cranberries and let them soak. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries from the syrup to a bowl filled with white sugar. Shake to coat evenly, then set aside.
Step 5: To make the orange glaze, dissolve the powdered sugar in 1 tablespoon of water in a saucepan over low heat. Keep stirring until you have a smooth and creamy glaze. Stir in the orange glaze to finish and leave it to cool.
Step 6: Once the cake has cooled completely, pour the orange glaze over top, letting it drip down the sides. Let stand for a few minutes, then garnish with sparking cranberries and orange slices. Enjoy!
Cranberry orange cupcakes
To make this loaf cake into cupcakes, pour the finished batter into a greased muffin pan and bake at 350°F for 23 to 25 minutes. Check out my carrot cake cupcake recipe for guided instructions.
Tips and tricks
- Work with room temperature ingredients – Take the eggs, yogurt, and oranges out of the fridge 15 to 30 minutes ahead of making the batter. Room temperature ingredients will easily incorporate with the other ingredients.
- Avoid over-mixing! Only stir the dry mixture in with the wet until the two just come together and no dry flour streaks remain. The less you fuss with the batter, the fluffier your cake will be.
- Don’t let the cake cool completely in the loaf pan or it may overbake and become chewy. After 10 to 15 minutes, turn the loaf onto a wire cooling rack to finish cooling before decorating.
- Gluten free – The carrot cake can easily be made gluten free by swapping the all purpose flour for a 1:1 gluten free flour (like Bob’s Red Mill) plus 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
- Decorate with frosting instead – Feel free to switch up the decor with different frosting and garnishes. Cream cheese frosting is always a good idea with carrot cake, but vanilla frosting or buttercream would be delicious as well.
- Or keep the decorations simple – If you’re not big on frostings and glazes, this delicious cranberry and orange loaf cake doesn’t need anything more than a light dusting of powdered sugar.
- Mix-in ideas – You can’t go wrong folding chopped walnuts, almonds, pecans, dates, dried pineapple, or mini dark chocolate chips into the batter.
Storing and freezing
To store: Keep the leftover glazed cranberry orange carrot cake in an airtight container on the counter for 3 days or in the fridge for up to 1 week.
To freeze: Let cool completely, then wrap the unglazed loaf tightly in plastic and keep frozen for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge before decorating and serving.
Hungry for more holiday desserts?
- Healthy Baked Cinnamon Apples
- Chocolate Espresso Hazelnut Cake
- Instant Pot Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
- Chewy Chocolate Pecan Cookies
Cranberry Orange Carrot Cake
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar divided
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tsp orange zest
- In a medium bowl add the first 3 ingredients (dry ingredients) flour, baking powder and salt, whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In a large bowl add the eggs, carrots, maple syrup, yogurt, vanilla extract, orange zest and orange juice and mix until well combined.
- Pour dry mix into the liquids batter and mix well using a spatula. Do not over mix! Fold in the cranberries.
- Pour batter onto a lined and greased loaf pan and bake at 350F degrees for 35-42 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
- Heat the water and 1 cup of sugar, until the sugar has completely dissolved (don't let it boil). Remove from heat and let it cool off almost completely. When cooled, add in the cranberries and let it bathe in this sugar syrup water for 5-10 minutes.
- Pour the remaining 1 cup of sugar on to a flat bowl or any flat container with sides. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries from sugar syrup and place it in the sugar bowl. Shake the sugar bowl to coat the cranberries equally with sugar. Remove the cranberries from the sugar bowl and set aside (in the refrigerator, preferably)
- In low heat, dissolve the powdered sugar with 1 tbsp water, mixing with a rubber spatula to keep the consistency creamy. Add the orange zest and mix. Let it cool off for 1-2 minutes.
Putting the Cake Together
- Once the cake is done baking and cooled off, pour the orange glaze over it, letting the glaze drip down the sides. Set aside for 1-2 minutes. Add the sparkling cranberries and orange slices for a complete and delightful look.
- Substitute all-purpose flour for Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten-free flour at equal amounts (2 cups)
- add 1 tsp baking soda also
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.