Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread

I know without question I cannot bake and cook at the same time. Disaster awaits. Or at the very least, serious unhappiness. There must be either a baking morning and a cooking afternoon or some variation thereof. This doesn’t mean I won’t stir up a pan of cornbread while my beans finish cooking at 5:30 or that I’d refuse to bake cookies if the slow cooker was on. No, no, no–not at all. But it does mean I shouldn’t be chopping and adding ingredients to a soup and think I can also whip up a loaf or two of quick bread in the the short minutes between soup chores. Because if I do, the bread will be missing its cinnamon, for instance, or in this case, its very necessary salt. And I might serve the soup without making sure all of its ingredients were just as tender as they should be. Which I did — and sent it to ill neighbors like that. (I hope the carrots weren’t crunchy. God, Alyce.)

Jump to Recipe

So my first trial run with this bread ended in saltless loaves I expected to throw into the back forty for the deer, but upon tasting it, Dave, my husband, and I were pleasantly surprised. It might have lacked a certain je ne sais quoi (I don’t know what), but it ate just fine with a thick schmear of salty butter. That didn’t stop me from baking it all over again this morning just to make sure I got it right nor from wondering if I’d, as my friend Kyndra suggested, market the first try as a “hypertension tea loaf!” (While we call these loaves “quick breads” these days, they were formerly and endearingly named “tea breads” or “tea loaves.” I like the old nomenclature better as it more accurately says what the baked good is, whereas quick breads can be anything from cornbread or biscuits to banana bread or coffeecake–nearly anything baked without yeast.)

Even for non-bakers or interested kiddos, a quick bread like this is perfect for December. One loaf for you and one loaf to give away or wrap to store in the freezer for Christmas morning. Try this:

Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread

It isn’t a winter holiday without an easy quick bread to gift your sweet neighbor or to snarf down with your morning coffee while watching the snow pile up. Loosely adapted from Marion Cunningham’s lovely spicy pumpkin bread, my 2021 version includes fresh cranberries, less spice, less fat/sugar, (let’s taste those cranberries), and toasted pecans just for grins and giggles. I make my bread using a standing electric mixer, but a wooden spoon works just fine, too. For best taste, cool, wrap, let rest overnight and then slice and serve.
makes two 9×5 loaves


  • 6 tablespoons salted butter softened
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 15- ounce can puréed pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 generous teaspoon each: ground cinnamon and ginger
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen –don't thaw — cranberries (See notes for subbing dried cranberries.)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans


  • GETTING READY: Grease well and flour two 9×5 inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack at center.
  • MIX THE BATTER: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the softened butter, apple sauce, pumpkin, milk, eggs, and sugar until well-combined at medium-low speed. (If you’re mixing by hand, beat the eggs briefly before adding them.) It’s ok if there are bits of butter visible. On top, measure in the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and ginger. Gently stir just those dry ingredients together. Turn the mixer on again to medium-low and mix all until barely combined. Stir in the cranberries and pecans. Divide the mixture between the prepared pans. Shake or thump each pan on the counter to settle and even out the batter, then smooth tops with a rubber spatula.
  • BAKE 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the middle comes out clean or almost clean. Start checking bread at 45 minutes.
  • COOL/SERVE: Cool in pans on a rack for 5-10 minutes. Holding both ends of one pan with oven mitts, bang it firmly a couple of times onto a counter or board and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Turn the bread right side up for cooling so the pattern from the rack isn’t embossed into the top of the bread. Repeat with second pan. Cool completely before slicing and serving. (Best served the next day.) Store well-wrapped at room temperature for 2-3 days, in the refrigerator for a week, or double wrap and freeze for 2 months. Thaw completely at room temperature while still wrapped before slicing and serving.


Cook’s Notes:  Add 2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to the top of a loaf for fun and crunch. They’re loaded with magnesium to boot. Sub dried cranberries for the fresh by using ¾ cup of dried cranberries that you cover with boiling water and let rest about 10 minutes before draining and adding to the batter.  See TIPS in blogpost for ideas about a glaze or icing. No salt for you? Skip it and this bread still tastes just fine.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021. All rights reserved.
courtesy America’s Test Kitchen



  • See Cook’s Notes and add pepitas on top.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.
  • Use walnuts or hazelnuts in place of pecans.
  • Sub raisins or dried cherries for the fresh cranberries (Measure 3/4 cup and cover them with boiling water. Let rest 10 minutes. Drain and stir into batter at the end.)
  • Replace 1 cup of all purpose unbleached flour with whole wheat flour.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves for increased heat and spicy profile.

Why do quick breads always say “mix until just barely combined?” Because if you over mix the batter, you’ll have a tough product. For a tender crumb, go easy on the mixing. Read up here.

How to Measure Flour/KING ARTHUR BAKING


  • Store plain nuts in the freezer. Always.
  • Small household? Cut these loaves in half if you’re not giving as gifts. Double wrap (first in plastic and then in foil) and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight on counter before unwrapping and slicing/serving.
  • Cranberries freeze perfectly. Measure out what you need for muffins or bread or sauce and leave the rest in the freezer.
  • Buy applesauce in the individual serving cups.
  • Don’t keep fresh milk in the house? Store a can or two of evaporated milk in your cupboard for when you need it. This bread works fine with canned milk.

If you liked this, you might also like my Banana-Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips, my Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bread, my Blueberry-Banana Bread, or my Banana-Cranberry Bread with White Chocolate Chips.


We flew to and from Champaign, Illinois for Thanksgiving. This is Dallas…I’ve never seen so many planes landing and taking off at the same time ever. Thanks, air traffic controllers. Not a hitch in our giddyup in either direction.

I appreciate your keeping me company in the kitchen. Keep an eye out for this year’s Christmas cookie.

Be well and bake on,


Thank the Episcopalians for this meme. We lit the first candle on our Advent log on Sunday. If you’re into Christmas early, listen to this. The Blenders rock. Lyrics here.

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  1. Pingback: Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread — More Time at the Table | My Meals are on Wheels

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