Cranberry and orange make a flavor combination that embodies the holiday season. It's bright yet warm, sweet yet tart, and altogether delicious. These bakery-style cranberry orange muffins are a great breakfast option because they're easy to make, store, and satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
These Bakery-Style Cranberry Orange Muffins are the best baked good for the winter season. This muffin recipe produces beautiful domed muffins that are light and delicious and filled with flavor. They are made with fresh cranberries, and if you haven’t used cranberries outside of traditional cranberry sauce, you're certainly in for a special treat!
These muffins are made with whole wheat flour, which packs a nutritional punch. It's a healthy option that you can feel good about feeding your family and will leave them feeling satisfied.
Interested in more cranberry goodness this holiday season? Check out my recipes for Cranberry Pound Cake, Apple Cranberry Pie with Walnuts, and Cranberry Orange Mocktails!
Why this recipe works
This cranberry orange muffins recipe rivals any bakery while remaining a better-for-you option. The whole wheat adds protein and fiber, so you can feel good about reaching for another muffin.
The fresh juice and zest combination gives the best orange flavor to perfectly complement the fresh cranberries. The sweet orange sugar on top really takes it to the next level and makes it look like a professional bakery-style muffin.
The nuts add protein and a fantastic crunch! Nuts have fat and protein, both of which aid in satiety. Besides all the nutritional benefits, they also add a great texture to this moist breakfast treat.
- Whole Wheat Pastry Flour- This adds nutritional value and texture to the muffins. It also adds a slightly nutty flavor.
- All-Purpose Flour- This helps create the muffin's base. All-purpose flour and whole wheat flour make a mild base lighter than an entirely whole wheat base.
- Salt- This brings out all the best flavors in your ingredients. It livens up the flour, elevates the sugar, and makes the orange flavor pop.
- Baking Powder- This gives your muffins a rise. If you don't bake often, be sure you're using baking powder that's new or has been opened for less than six months. While there's nothing unsafe about consuming old baking powder, it does lose potency over time. Older baking powder can lead to muffins that don't rise as well.
- Granulated Sugar-This makes your muffins sweet. Fresh cranberries are naturally very tart, so sugar is essential to balance their flavor.
- Orange Zest-This is the key to all the orange flavor! Zest is concentrated with delicious orange flavor. It adds brightness in a way that not even orange juice can. Be sure to find an orange with a bright, blemish-free peel.
- Eggs- Eggs help give the batter structure and add rise.
- Butter and Canola Oil- Buttery taste in a muffin can't be beat. While the flavor is delicious, you want a mixture of butter and oil in muffins. Oil makes for a moist and tender crumb, whereas butter alone can sometimes create a drier muffin. Using them together gives you the best of both worlds.
- Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream- This ingredient has many benefits. If you use Greek yogurt, you're adding protein which is a great way to make these delicious muffins even more satisfying. It also adds moisture and acidity to the batter. Acidity brightens flavors and aids in leavening.
- Milk- This makes the batter pourable, adds flavor, and also adds moisture.
- Orange Juice- This adds acidity and sweetness. Orange juice paired with zest packs the biggest punch for maximizing flavor. Be sure to look for juice that's not from concentrate since it will have less added sugar and a more authentic orange taste.
- Fresh Cranberries-These small tart fruits are a delicious seasonal ingredient. If you haven't enjoyed them outside of Thanksgiving dinner, prepare to be amazed! They're firm and more tart than you might expect. However, once baked into the sweet muffin batter, the tartness is neutralized into a fresh and tasty flavor.
- Chopped Walnuts- Nuts add fat, protein, and texture to muffins. You can swap out for your favorite types, such as pecan or almonds, or leave them out if you prefer.
How to make cranberry orange muffins
Mise En Place
Mise en place, meaning "everything in place" means to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to use before assembling your recipe. It allows your recipe to flow without stopping to prepare ingredients. You'll measure your ingredients out, do any necessary chopping and prepare anything else that may need to be done.
For this recipe, you'll measure all your ingredients and place them into your work area, along with any additional bowls or utensils you may need.
The only chopping in this recipe is the cranberries. I prefer smaller chunks in the muffins so I cut mine in half when preparing them. If you prefer whole cranberries, that's okay too!
Now is also a good time to preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prep your muffin tin with nonstick spray. I really like the Wilton Muffin pans because they heat evenly and are nonstick.
Mixing The Dry Ingredients
Once your ingredients are ready, you can begin mixing. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt until evenly combined.
In a separate large mixing bowl, you'll make the orange sugar. Mix the granulated sugar and orange zest until well combined. Then, mix in the butter and oil.
Mixing the wet ingredients
In the bowl with your orange sugar, butter, and oil, add your eggs and mix until just combined. Overmixing will result in tough baked goods.
Next, add in your Greek yogurt, milk, and orange juice and stir until just combined.
Now, you're ready to combine your wet and dry ingredients. Slowly add the flour to your wet ingredients, stirring until a cohesive batter forms.
Last are the cranberries and walnuts. Use a rubber spatula to fold these in carefully, so you don't break them up.
Preparing Them To Bake
I love to use a portion scoop (or cookie scoop) to scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan. It is important that you have the same amount of muffin batter in each pan for even baking. Otherwise, some muffins may be overbaked while others are still wet in the center. Of course, a good muffin pan is essential as well.
To finish each muffin off, I also place a few more fresh cranberries on top. Then, I sprinkle more orange sugar on top. This isn't a must, but that sugar gives such a delicious orange flavor and presentation.
The Perfect Bakery-Style Cranberry Orange Muffins
The muffins will bake up beautifully. The top's dome and the edges turn a light golden brown. The cranberries and orange sugar create a beautiful muffin worthy of any bakery display.
Does this not look like the best breakfast muffin this time of year? I think so too!!
Do you need a gluten-free option as well? You could also make this Fall Fruit Salad with pears. It is so good and simple to make. It comes together in just 5 minutes!
Tips for making the best muffins
Ingredients- Make sure you have a good ratio of ingredients. I know it sounds silly, but it is so true. Some muffin recipes aren't meant to bake up the same way a bakery-style muffin is made. Different flour ratios, fat amount, and baking powder can all affect the final result.
Proper Mixing- Be sure not to over-mix your muffins. For this batter, you'll want to mix until just combined, which means mixing until the ingredients come together to form a uniform batter. Over mixing is an easy accident. It can be problematic because it adds too much air into the batter and can cause the gluten to overdevelop in the flour. These things lead to more dense, tough baked goods.
High Heat-Bake these muffins HOT! Most recipes call for baking at 350 degrees. Not these ones. That hot temp gives the best "oven spring" to your muffins. It gives these cranberry orange muffins a beautiful dome and perfect light texture.
The Best Whole Wheat Flour For Muffins
For this recipe, as with almost all my recipes, most of my flour is whole wheat. Soft winter wheat is almost always my preference for muffin recipes. It gives them a light, delicate texture, very similar to an all-white batter.
I have a Nutrimill Grain mill and use Farm Fresh Wheat for my soft winter wheat. If you do not have a grain mill, King Arthur Flour has great whole wheat pastry flour.
Using Orange Zest In Baked Goods
Zest is the outer colored part of citrus fruits. This recipe uses orange zest, so just the orange part. It packs an intense, concentrated punch of flavor into your cranberry orange muffins.
Start by washing your citrus. Dry it well, then use a Microplane to grate off just the zest. Micro planes are super fine graters. In a pinch, you can also use the fine grater side on your box grater.
The white under the zest is called the pith, which is very bitter. You don't want any pith in your baked goods. When zesting the orange, be sure to scrape only a couple of times per section, then rotate the orange. This will help avoid the pith getting grated in with the zest.
Most recipes will have you throw the zest right in. I prefer to mix it with granulated sugar first. This ensures it is equally mixed in the batter or dough.
Cranberry Muffins FAQ
No. You will be surprised at how good the muffins are, but using all-purpose for all of it is fine too!
For sure! There are a lot of great options out there. Rye is really good, as is spelt, kamut, and einkorn. If you are new to whole grains or serving these to someone who is, make sure not to use more than 50% whole wheat.
Yes! The combined total on the recipe for flours is 2 ½ cups. I would reduce the amount of flour by two tablespoons if you go 100% whole wheat.
You can, but it won't be the same. It won't have the same flavor as when you use fresh cranberries.
For dried cranberries, you may want to consider hydrating them in a bowl of water before baking. This helps soften them and create a more desirable texture.
If you're using frozen cranberries, be sure to thaw them in a bowl of cool water and dry them before cutting up and adding to the recipe.
They do! Make sure they are in an airtight bag or container and completely cooled before packaging. They will stay good for at least two weeks.
You sure can! I prefer the mix of both for a few reasons. The butter lends flavor, but I love the texture that oil gives muffins!
Not if you don't want them! We love nuts in our house, so I add them wherever I can. But, of course, you can omit them or use another nut if you prefer. Pecans, almonds, and macadamia nuts are all great options.
Fresh Cranberry Orange Muffins
- 1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour You can also use another other whole grain flour your prefer, but I like the whole wheat pastry flour the best.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup sugar If you are trying to reduce sugar, you can easily go down to ¾ cup without too much difference. You can also reduce it to ½ cup. but this is a more noticable difference.
- 3 tablespoons orange zest
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup butter melted
- ⅓ cup canola oil or another neutral flavored oil
- ⅓ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- ⅓ cup milk
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 ½-1 ½ cup fresh cranberries I like to give mine a rough chop, but you can leave them whole too.
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
Orange Sugar Topping
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- Make sure and read the instructions all the way through before beginning Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Prep your muffin tin by spraying with pan spray, or buttering with softened butter. Set muffin pan aside.
- Mix your flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Mix your granulated sugar and zest in a small bowl and set aside. You will want to make sure it is well blended.
- If you are cutting your cranberries in half, you can leave them whole if you prefer, do that now as well.
- Add butter, oil, and orange sugar to a medium-sized bowl. Mix well. Next add the eggs, Greek yogurt, orange juice, and milk. Again, mix only to combine. The flour mixture is added next. Mix to combine. Now add in the cranberries and walnuts. Leave a few cranberries out to top the muffins before baking.
- Scoop the muffin mixture into the pans. You should have the perfect amount for 12. Top with a few of the remaining cranberries.
- Now, mix together the ¼ cup sugar and zest. Top muffins with this. Place muffin tin in the preheated oven.
- Bake for about 7 minutes, then turn the pan around. Most ovens have hot spots, generally, in the back corners, it is best to rotate halfway through.
- The muffins will take between 14-18 minutes to bake. You can test with a toothpick. The trick is though, you want it to be just slightly underbaked when you remove it from the oven. The reason for this is there is a process called carry-over cooking. This means the baked cook will continue to cook even when it is removed from the heat source. The residual heat in the muffins will keep cooking after it is removed. So, make sure the toothpick has just a little wet muffin batter on it, but only a little. Another way to test it is to gently touch the very top of it. I like to bake it until about ½ inch in the center of the muffin is slightly underbaked.
- Remove from oven.
- Allow cooling for about 3-5 minutes in the pan. Then, carefully remove and place on a cooling rack. They are delicious warm, they are delicious cooled, and they are even delicious the day after! Make sure and wrap well if they won't be eaten the day of!
No. I think you will be surprised at how good they are, but using all-purpose for all of it is fine too!
For sure! There are a lot of great options out there. Rye is really good, as is spelt, kamut, and einkorn. If you are new to whole grains or serving these to someone who is, make sure not to use more than about 50% whole wheat.
Yes! The combined total on the recipe for flour is 2 ½ cups. I would reduce the amount of flour by 2 tablespoons if you are going to go 100% whole wheat.
You can, but it won't be the same. It won't have the same flavor as when you use fresh.
They do! Make sure they are in an airtight bag or container, and completely cooled before packaging. They will stay good for at least 2 weeks.
You sure can! I prefer the mix of both for a few reasons. The butter lends flavor, but I love the textured oil gives to muffins!
Not if you don't want them! We love nuts in our house, so I add them wherever I can. You can omit them, or even use another nut if you prefer!
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