Cranberry orange bread has long been a holiday tradition in my family, and in fact was one of the earlier recipes I shared on this site – about 16 years ago! Zesty orange and bright cranberries are a natural pairing. These Cranberry Orange Cake Bars take those classic flavors and combine them in a cake-like bar cookies that are wonderful addition to any holiday cookie plate.
One of the nice things about bar cookies is that they’re quick to make and even easier to share than a loaf cake. These bars are no exception.
The bars are cakelike and tender, almost more like pound cake than a brownie or regular cookie. They will just seem to melt in your mouth, leaving you with the delightful flavor of orange and cranberry. They include fresh orange zest, whole cranberries and dried cranberries. The whole cranberries are tarter than the dried, while the dried are sweeter and chewier for a nice contrast with the fresh fruit.
Like a classic pound cake, these bars don’t contain any leavening. The eggs in the batter add just enough air into the batter to give the cake an extremely tender crumb and a perfectly light texture. So don’t think it’s a typo that this recipe doesn’t contain baking powder or baking soda! The batter comes together very quickly and it will be ready to go into the oven in minutes.
I like to line the baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil to make it easy to remove the bars from the pan for slicing. Let the bars cool completely before slicing. I’ll slice one pan into about 20 pieces for easy sharing. If you want to make these bars the centerpiece dessert at a holiday dinner, cut them into larger slices and serve them alongside a small scoop of ice cream or whipped cream!
Cranberry Orange Cake Bars
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×9-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, butter, orange zest, vanilla extract and salt. Add in flour and whisk to combine, stirring just until no streaks of flour remain. Fold in cranberries and dried cranberries.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until bars are golden and set. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Makes 20 squares.