Cranberry Orange Babka

Full of homemade spiced cranberry and orange filling and topped with an orange glaze, Cranberry Orange Babka is the perfect fall and winter holiday yeast bread! 

two loaves of cranberry orange babka on a cooling rack.

We’re coming down to the end of our 2019 Babka of the Year series, and suffice to say – I’ve been saving one of my favorite flavor combinations for last.  This cranberry orange babka is so good and perfect for all your fall and winter celebrations!

These cranberry orange streusel muffins are one of the most popular recipes on Bunsen Burner Bakery every fall/winter – and for good reason.  They’re delicious – and people love them for the holidays.  On Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, I always tagged in lots of posts on Instagram and Twitter from people enjoying them.

Soooo… how about we try shaking things up a little?  Or swirling things up a little, as the case may be?  

Trade in the muffin pan for a loaf pan and the baking powder for some yeast – because instead of muffins, we’re baking a cranberry orange babka!

(Oh, and while I thought about making a streusel topping, I decided to try something different, too.  Lots of my babka recipes are topped with streusel.  This time I went with an orange glaze instead.  GOOD CALL.)

a loaf of cranberry orange babka with several slices removed to show the red swirls of cranberries inside.

Cranberry Orange Babka Ingredients

What do we need to make this delicious babka?  The babka dough is the same base as my other recipes, and the homemade cranberry orange filling is pretty simple.  Here’s the list, so you can make sure you have what you need!

  • whole milk
  • instant yeast (regular active dry yeast can be used, the rise may just take a little longer – I highly recommend Saf Gold instant yeast for babkas)
  • granulated sugar
  • eggs
  • vanilla extract
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • orange zest or granulated orange peel
  • unsalted butter
  • orange juice
  • brown sugar
  • cranberries (fresh or frozen work)

Everything on the list is straightforward, but I’ll make a note about the granulated orange peel.  You can make this recipe using orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice.  But… if you don’t have oranges around, it also works fine with store-bought orange juice and granulated orange peel.

Granulated orange peel is one of my favorite baking ingredients: it’s just dehydrated orange zest.  I buy mine from Penzeys and usually use about half as much granulated orange peel as fresh orange zest.  For baking recipes, I usually don’t even bother to rehydrate it first.

step by step photos showing a rectangle of babka dough with cranberry filling spread across it and the dough twisted.

How to Make Cranberry Orange Babka

Since babka is a yeast bread, it has to rise.  We do this in two steps – before we shape the dough into the classic twisty swirl, and again after.  In order to make the dough easy to roll out, though, we’re splitting the first rise into two: a room-temperature half, and a refrigerated half.

The dough can be made either by hand or using a stand mixer with a dough hook.   Even if I mix with the dough hook and start the kneading process with it, I always like to end babkas with kneading by hand. Why is this kneading step so especially important for babka dough? It’s time for my favorite subject – kitchen chemistry!

Kitchen Chemistry

Babka is an enriched dough, meaning it is made with eggs, butter, and sugar. These added fats and sugar interfere with gluten development. Fat coats the flour particles, limiting their contact with water and, consequently, with each other. This makes it harder for the gluten network to develop. Sugar, meanwhile, competes with the flour for water, which also inhibits gluten development. Given these challenges, kneading is especially important, as it helps to evenly distribute the fats and sugar and aligns the gluten proteins. Kneading is essential to ensure that the dough is strong enough to hold its shape and the layers of filling. 

Let the dough rise for an hour to an hour and a half in a warm, dark place.  We’re looking for the dough to almost, but not quite, double — grow roughly 1.75-ish times in size.

I use the ‘proof’ setting on my oven for this.   You can also fill a roasting pan with boiling water and set it in the bottom of your oven along with your dough to trap a little extra warm, moist heat for the same effect. 

After this part of the rise, the dough goes into the refrigerator.  The yeast will continue to work in the cold and the dough will still rise, but the whole process is slowed down. 

two side by side photos showing two loaves of cranberry orange babka in loaf pans before baking and after baking.

While the dough rises, make the filling.  It starts like a simple stovetop cranberry sauce, cooking together orange juice, brown sugar, and cranberries.  After pulling the mixture off the heat, stir in the butter, orange zest, and cinnamon.

Make sure to cool this cranberry filling fully!  I let mine cool for 30 minutes at room temperature, then pop it into the refrigerator to make sure it is cold.  We don’t want to spread warm filling on chilled dough!

Once the dough finishes the refrigerated rise, roll it out into a large rectangle and spread on the filling.  Then roll it up into a log, cut the log down the center, and twist the two halves.  Fold the babka dough in half and transfer to a loaf pan for the second rise.

After baking, let the babka cool in the loaf pan, then top with a simple orange juice glaze for a little extra orange flavor.  Delicious and sweet! 

two loaves of cranberry orange babka on a cooling sheet covered in an orange glaze dripping down the babka and pooling on a cookie sheet.

How to Store Cranberry Orange Babka

Like all my babka recipes, this recipe makes enough dough for two loaves.  You can easily half the recipe if you only want one, or use a different filling for the second (see all babka recipes HERE), or you can make two of the same and freeze one for later.

Slices of cranberry orange babka can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.

An entire loaf of babka can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Wrap in several layers of aluminum foil and store in a freezer-safe plastic bag.  Thaw overnight at room temperature before enjoying. 

a tall stack of slices of cranberry orange babka on a small dessert plate with a jug of orange juice in the background.

Make Ahead Babka

Want to break your babka making up into several days, or even several weeks (or months?).  We can do that!  These are all the places you can stop or start your babka:

  • During the first rise, dough can be refrigerated anywhere from 1 to 36 hours.
  • Freeze the dough after the first rise.  Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator, then roll it out and spread with filling.
  • Prepare the entire babka up through baking: make the dough, roll it out, fill it, twist it, place it in the loaf pan, then freeze the babka.  Cover tightly with several layers of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months.  Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature the next day for 2 hours and bake.
  • Bake the entire babka ahead of time and freeze the entire baked babka, thawing the whole loaf later.
a slice of cranberry orange on a small white plate, another slice on a wooden cutting board, and fresh cranberries in ceramic blue quart basket.

Tips and Tricks for the Best Cranberry Orange Babka

  1. If you’re new to baking babka, visit this “The Best Chocolate Babka” post for step-by-step photos of how to shape babka dough.
  2. Refrigerate the babka dough for the second part of the first rise.  This makes the dough much easier to roll with no need for extra flour.
  3. If you don’t want to make the babka all in one day, refrigerate the dough for up to 36 hours during the first rise.
  4. Completely cool the cranberry orange filling before spreading on the babka dough.
  5. Use a thermometer to determine when the babka is done.  When an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf hits 190 °F, your babka is fully cooked.

More Cranberry Recipes:

2019 Babka of the Month Series

Cranberry Orange Babka

Cranberry Orange Babka

Yield: 2 loaves
Prep Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Full of homemade spiced cranberry and orange filling and topped with an orange glaze, cranberry orange babka is the perfect fall and winter holiday yeast bread. 


For the Dough:

  • 1 cup (227 grams) whole milk, room temperature or slightly warmed
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) instant yeast, preferably SAF Gold
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups (540 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces

For the cranberry orange filling:

  • 1/3 cup (76 grams) orange juice
  • 1/2 cup (106 grams) packed brown sugar
  • 12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Orange Glaze:

  • 3 cups (340 grams) confectioners sugar
  • 1/3 cup (76 grams) orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


    1. Prepare the dough. Whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook or a large glass mixing bowl. On low speed, beat in the milk, eggs, and vanilla extract, mixing just until the dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the butter one piece at a time, beating after each addition until all pieces have been added. Continue mixing with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, whisk together ingredients by hand until combined; knead by hand for 10 minutes until dough is soft and smooth.)
    2. Transfer the dough to a large lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Set aside to rise at room temperature for 1 hour. After 1 hour, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator, still covered, and set aside for 1 hour, until the dough has almost doubled in size and is firm to the touch.
    3. Prepare the filling. While the babka is rising in the refrigerator, make the cranberry orange filling. Combine the orange juice, brown sugar, and cranberries in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, using a spoon to pop open the cranberries, until the mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the butter, orange zest, and cinnamon. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled.
    4. Shape the babka. Grease two 9x5-inch loaf pans. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently punch it down. Cut the dough in half; remove half from the bowl and recover the other half and set aside.
    5. Roll the dough into a roughly 9-inch by 18-inch rectangle. Spread half the filling over the dough, leaving a slight border along the edges. Working from the long side of the dough, roll the dough into a long cylinder. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half long-ways down the length of the cylinder to expose the cranberry filling, creating two logs of dough. Twist these two logs together. Fold in half one more time, twisting again, and place dough in the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover both loaf pans with plastic wrap or a dish towel and set aside to rise again at room temperature, for another hour.
    6. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
    7. Bake the babka. Bake the loaves at 350 °F for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top of the loaf is golden brown and the inside registers 190 °F using an instant-read thermometer. Allow the breads to cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
    8. Make the glaze. To make the orange glaze, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add additional confectioners' sugar for a thicker glaze or orange juice to thin the glaze. Use a spoon to scoop the glaze over the fully cooled babkas and set aside for the glaze to harden before slicing.


  1. To spread the babka making out over multiple days, the refrigeration step during the first rise can extend from 1 hour up to 36 hours.
  2. The babka can be fully shaped and placed in the loaf pan up through the second rise and frozen; thaw in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature for two hours, and then bake.
  3. Babka can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, wrap fully cooled loaf in aluminum foil and place inside a plastic freezer bag.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 249Total Fat: 7.2gCarbohydrates: 42.5gProtein: 3.7g

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Cranberry Orange Babka: Full of homemade cranberry orange filling and topped with an orange glaze, this homemade babka bread is perfect for fall and winter holidays. With easy to follow instructions and tips to make ahead or spread the baking over several days, this is the perfect babka for beginners, too!