Christmas Breads: Cranberry and Pumpkin

These 2 breads have been part of my holiday tradition since I was in charge of my very first kitchen.

It never occurred to me (one knows so little about what one doesn't know) that they would become an annual quest when we moved across the pond.

For our first Christmas, in Ireland, I found cranberries without even looking – much as one would in the US. 

No Libby's Pumpkin though, or any other kind of pumpkin.

To be honest, that wasn't a surprise, pumpkin pie being uniquely American.

For the next few years, in Andorra, there were no cranberries to be found anywhere. 

But lots of pumpkin.  It seems the Spanish actually like pumpkin. I learned how to make my pumpkin bread with fresh, cooked pumpkin. There was a bit of trial and error, but not too much.

When we moved to France I discovered that the French considered pumpkin to be pig food – along with sweet corn (the Spanish agree on the sweet corn – definitely for the pigs).

But in France I had a nice big potager… I grew my own pumpkin.

Still, no cranberries.

Then one year cranberries appeared.

Not just any cranberries, but bags of Ocean Spray Cranberries! 

The next year we moved to our current house.

No cranberries.

Without detailing the quest year-by-year, let me just say that they are slowly becoming more accepted. I found them almost easily this year.

Still using fresh pumpkin, though….

Cranberry Bread


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbs shortening (I use butter), rounded
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup cranberries, cut in half
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped 

Christmas Breads


  • Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C)
  • Butter and flour a 9 X 5 loaf pan (I line the bottom with parchment – comes out easier)
  • Cream sugar, shortening and egg together.
  • Stir in juice. 
  • Add flour, soda, baking powder, stir well.  
  • Add vanilla, cranberries and nuts, stir. 
  • Bake for 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cranberry and Pumpkin Breads

Pumpkin Bread 


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin 
  • 1/2 cup oil (I use corn oil)
  • 1/4 cup water (I don't add if using fresh pumpkin)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg 
  • 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger 
  • 1 2/3 cups flour


  • Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C)
  • Butter and flour a 9 X 5 loaf pan (I line the bottom with parchment – comes out easier)
  • Cream sugar and eggs.  
  • Add pumpkin, oil, (water) and blend. 
  • Add remaining ingredients and stir well. 
  • Bake for 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The students in my French class will occasionally bring in something sweet to have with morning coffee. (Part of the tuition is a bag of coffee).

Last week I took Cranberry Bread… Partly because I hadn't contributed anything yet and partly because I love to watch the French  - and English, the first time they realize cranberries can be used for something other than sauce – or used for anything at all.

They all loved it.

The French teacher took samples around to the other French teachers.

Mon mari came home from his class with a request from his teacher for 'the Cranberry Cake'.

I was asked for the recipe.

Normally, I am very happy to share recipes (duh!) but this was a special challenge.

First it had to be in both English and French.

Easy you say – just translate it.

'Cream' is a specific word used in baking to describe the combining of sugar, eggs and / or butter. To my knowledge it's not used as a verb in other instances (except in slang).

It has no French equivalent.

That's only the first line of instruction…. You see my problem.

The other issue is the measurements.

Americans are unique in the use of standard measuring devices.  If you tell a Brit that you need a cup of rice they will ask what size cup.

Still, for the larger quantities, that part was easy.

It was the 1/2 tsp of baking powder or salt or soda that was a challenge – we're talking light stuff here.

Well, the Brits in class said they just use teaspoons – real teaspoons.  I have no idea if the teaspoons in a set of tableware are standard in size nor how they relate to a proper American measuring teaspoon.

All in all we had about an hour long lesson, in French, about baking.

Ironically, that hardest concept to get across was that it was called Cranberry Bread and not Cranberry Cake.

I explained that Americans make sweet breads (as opposed to sweetbreads, which is the culinary name for glands, usually served as a first course).

The Brits said it was a tea cake.

The French said it was a cake.

And yet, every year at this time the boulangeries are filled with pain d'épice, translated as spice bread and very similar to gingerbread.

Bread – not cake.

But mine was a Cranberry Cake.

Once again, somethings just have to be accpeted….

9 thoughts on “Christmas Breads: Cranberry and Pumpkin”

  1. Ooh these sound delicious! Will definitely be trying them out.
    We’ve developed a taste for pumpkin but they’re notoriously hard to get hold of in the UK, with the exception of late October. We’ve taken to bulk buying and filling our freezer to last us through the winter.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. No problems getting pumpkin and many other sorts of squash in our local markets! I think you could try Picard for frozen cranberries — I have a feeling I’ve seen them there.
    I’ve had to translate quite a few British cake recipes for French friends. They love carrot cake! “Cream”: French cake recipes normally say “Mélanger” or “bien mélanger”. You can add “jusqu’à obtenir un mélange bien crémeux”. I suppose French people who aren’t professional patissiers don’t make many cakes, hence no need for a word! Just think of the number of cooking processes English doesn’t have words for, so we have to use French ones 🙂 Saute for example.

  3. What a lovely pair of Christmas breads! I remember when cranberries were only available in jars here but now the supermarkets have their own brand names on the bags they are so common. Libby’s too is easy to get hold of. sell it, wonder if they ship to France? Although that would probably prove to be the most expensive can of pumpkin ever!

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  5. George, I grow them myself – or butternut squash. That works in place of the pumpkin. I did manage to buy some this year – at Grand Frais – huge produce store.
    Val, one learns to adjust (she says, piously) Not always easy, though LOL
    Veronica, thanks for the tip on ‘cream’… I’ll explain more to them tomorrow. And about the frozen cranberries… though I prefer the fresh for this bread…. when I can get them.
    Jayne, American Soda does have it – and yes, that would greatly increase the expense of the Bread LOL

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