Sugar Topped Cranberry Orange Muffins


I was all set to make blueberry muffins for breakfast on Saturday when I realized I had used the last of the blueberries a week ago. I was not going to go to the store, so the frozen fruit choices were raspberries or cranberries. I made a batch of cranberry orange bread for a bake sale in November and have been craving it ever since, so cranberries won out. I decided to make muffins since they would bake in a short amount of time. You can bake just about any quick bread recipe as muffins, or vice versa.

The recipe I was starting with called for orange zest and orange juice, but I was feeling very Saturday morningish, and wanted an easy recipe, so I skipped the zest and used orange juice from a jug. Next time I will at least run the microplane over an orange to get a little zest to punch up the orange flavor just a bit. Not sure I will actually take the time to juice the orange, but I will do the zest.

I combined a couple of recipes and then made a few further variations. That is always a gamble, but this time it worked beautifully. The results were tender, orange-scented muffins with surprise bits of tartness from the cranberries. The sugar and butter topping was icing on the cake.


Download or print just the recipe here. 

Sugar Topped Cranberry Orange Muffins
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 10-12 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour (or ½ cup all-purpose flour)
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest, optional
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
⅔ cup orange juice
1 egg
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw frozen berries)

2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups and set aside.

Combine all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl mix oil, orange juice and egg, beating well.

Add oil mixture to flour mixture and mix gently until about half mixed. Add cranberries and mix gently until there are no dry streaks of flour.

Fill muffin cups half to two-thirds full – if you want taller muffins, fill the cups with the larger amount of batter. You may only get 10 of the larger muffins. If you have empty cups, place an ice cube in each one.

Bake muffins for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are just starting to turn golden brown and feel set when pressed with a finger. If the tops are pale or the centers are soft, bake a minute or two longer.

While muffins are baking, melt butter in a small bowl. Place ¼ cup sugar in another small bowl.

After muffins are baked, let them sit in the muffin pan for 2-3 minutes. Then run a knife around the outside of each one and ease it out of the pan. Dip the top of each muffin first in butter, then in sugar and set on a rack to cool for a few minutes before serving (see Note).

Note: It is best to dip muffins immediately before you eat them. If you are saving some muffins for another time, wait to dip them until you are ready to eat them. If you dip them ahead of time, the sugar melts into the butter as the muffins sit and makes them sticky instead of forming the desired white, slightly crunchy topping.

Muffins keep for a day or two in an airtight container, at room temperature. Freeze muffins for longer storage. Thaw muffins for a few hours at room temperature, in an airtight container. Dip muffins in butter and sugar after thawing.


2 thoughts on “Sugar Topped Cranberry Orange Muffins

  1. Sarah,
    You could have called me. I have a bunch of blueberries in the freezer. How do I know exactly how many? My daughter made a castle for school last week and unplugged my freezer to plug in her glue gun. After we discovered the unexpectedly defrosting berries I saved a bunch that were still icy and made smoothies and sauce out of the rest. I did save 2 bags of cranberries, too, so I’m excited to try this. Thanks!

    • I didn’t want to bother you so early on a Saturday morning, Kirsten! Oh, I know about those unexpectedly defrosting blueberries. We had a weeklong power outage almost 10 years ago. The freezer was mostly empty already, thank goodness. But we discovered a leaking bag of blueberries in the bottom that made quite a mess.

      Glad you were able to save your fruit! I only have one bag of cranberries left. I think I’ll be missing cranberries by the time Thanksgiving rolls around again and I can restock the freezer!

      Let me know how they turn out for you when you try them!

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