This lightly sweet orange cake loaf is deliciously moist and full of zesty flavors. It's an incredibly soft buttery cake bread with sweet oranges and cloves that beautifully come together once baked.
It not only looks gorgeous on any table, but it is a perfect treat to serve something special for the Holidays or get-togethers as an indulgent breakfast or with a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon.
Or gift this baked good with some wrapping and a little bit of presentation.
I'll admit that I don't often make this orange cake loaf, but it doesn't last long when I do.
Buttery and comforting aromas fill the house when this quick bread comes out of the oven, and it draws everyone into the kitchen wanting a slice before it is even cooled (they have to wait).
This cake is moist, light but has a tight enough crumb to bake nicely in a loaf pan.
Once cooled, I cut it with a bread knife into lovely bread-shaped slices, thick enough to smear on some butter, jam, or light yogurt.
Here are a few reasons why traditionally, this more festive baked good is on repeat every year:
- It's incredibly easy to make;
- Deliciously sweetened with real oranges and maple syrup;
- Cloves add warm spiced undertones that go well with the citrus fruit and counterbalance the sweetness;
- Combine all this with a nutritious grain such as Spelt flour and real butter, and you get a very tender, light orange cake loaf that is irresistible.
Ingredients & a few notes
This sweet orange bread recipe works best with an ancient grain such as Spelt flour. And if you haven't baked with this flour before, I urge you to give it a try.
It's light, mildly sweet, with a lovely hint of earthiness and a soft texture that aids with giving the cake batter its airiness.
Because the gluten content of Spelt flour tends to break down relatively easily, it's excellent for quick bread recipes that don't require a lot of mixing or kneading.
It's not a self-rising flour, so the ingredients list also calls for some baking powder.
As a regular reader of my blog, you know that I bake a lot with gluten-free flour or make a lot of no flour desserts. But this ancient grain occasionally sneaks into my Holiday baking and is a lovely choice for this orange cake loaf recipe.
Note: You could substitute it for wheat flour, although I'll admit that I have never tested this in my kitchen.
Oranges & Orange Zest
- I use (the) whole orange(s), not just the juice. It intensifies the flavor.
- First, I'll grate the zest and use it to enhance the citrusy taste and tanginess in the batter.
- Then I remove the bitter part of the white pith (discard) and either dice or chop the orange(s)
- The orange pieces are then processed and combined with maple syrup in a blender to add natural sweetness (just for a few seconds).
- It gives this orange bread that beautiful golden color and a wonderful orangy aroma.
- Because you are using the zest from the orange too, I recommend choosing organic fruits for this recipe.
- Usually, one large orange gets me about one tablespoon of orange zest. But I suggest having extra oranges on the side in case yours come in smaller sizes.
- Cloves have an intense flavor, so I am only using half a teaspoon here.
- But if you love a more robust clove flavoring, then feel free to add about ¾ teaspoon of ground cloves instead.
- This bittersweet spice adds warmth and creates a pleasant and comforting smell.
- When paired with citrus fruit like oranges and a small amount of maple syrup, its warm aromas are enhanced.
- This orange cake bread has almost all the pleasant smells of a warm mulled wine!
Sifting flour and mixing ingredients with a whisk
I'll be honest. I hardly use my sifter—I know I have one somewhere in my kitchen. So instead, I use my good old whisk to combine the flour with the dry ingredients and the orange zest to give the Spelt flour some air.
So, take a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, ground cloves, and orange zest. Then, whisk all these ingredients until they are well combined.
At the same time, the flour gets aerated and becomes more fluffy, which will result in a lighter cake texture.
Once everything is combined, your flour will smell deliciously orangy from the zest with a hint of cloves aroma, but you won't see any zest or spices anymore.
When the wet ingredients are mixed in, the batter should look airy and orangy in color. But it's still thick yet on the fluffy side and with a relatively smooth drip-like consistency instead of runny when transferring it into the baking loaf.
Always prep the baking loaf. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to get the orange cake loaf out in one piece—and that would be a shame.
You can use parchment paper, but for this buttery cake bread, I always grease all sides and corners of the loaf pan with butter, then shake in a bit of flour (again coating all sides), and tap out the excess.
It's a straightforward solution, but one that will avoid getting your cake stuck in the pan.
The fun part about making this quick bread is that the batter comes together quickly, and you only need a few kitchen tools.
So here are a few extra tips on how to bake this orange cake loaf. And other than the loaf pan and your whisk, you might need a few additional but simple kitchen gadgets.
Orange zest & grater: The best tool to zest an orange is a Microplane or citrus zester—most ideal—or in the absence of, use the fine shred of your regular grater. Just make sure to get a fine zest with none to little pith. Also, don't forget to wash the orange first thoroughly—I almost forgot once...almost.
Dicing the orange: Once you have the orange zest, set it aside and continue removing any white pith or remaining peel by hand or using a pairing knife. Dice or cut the peeled orange into smaller pieces. You need about a cup or 200 grams for this recipe. I use a sizeable juicy navel orange, but any orange will do as long as it is fresh and sweet—avoid dried-up fruits.
Blender: You can mix the cake batter by hand. The only thing that requires a blender is when mixing the maple syrup with the orange pieces. You can use a Vitamix, a small blender like a Nutribullet, or a food processor.
How to melt the butter: I quickly melt the butter over the stove in a small saucepan or frying pan (or skillet) and over the lowest heat setting. It doesn't take long, but I recommend staying with it. Stir the butter pieces frequently with a wooden spoon until completely melted because you want to prevent the butter from becoming too warm.
Baking time: My orange cake loaf always bakes for precisely 60 minutes. However, It's best to check and test for doneness at around 50 minutes into baking time and then every 5 minutes until you've reached the hour. Based on the type of oven you have, you might need an extra 5 minutes or so.
How to check the cake is ready: To check for doneness, I usually insert a toothpick or half of a thin pairing knife in the middle of the loaf. If it comes out dry, the orange cake is ready.
Cool the cake before removing it from the loaf pan: It depends on your room temperature how long it takes to cool the quick bread. In some cases, it can even take up to one hour. But, I do not recommend placing it in the fridge to speed up the process—the cake might lose some of that lovely buttery and moist texture—it's worth the wait.
Want to gift the cake or make it extra festive? Garnish the top with some powdered sugar for a beautiful snow-like effect, and use kraft paper bread bags for the wrapping.
Enjoy as-is or with a spread
A slice of this orange-clove butter bread tastes excellent on its own, but feel free to dress it up with
- Some butter and homemade spread—like this Simple Cranberry-Clementine Spread or rhubarb compote;
- A dollop of creamy yogurt always works and is one of our favorite toppings;
- Or pair it with something heartier like a slice of your favorite hard cheese.
How to store this cake bread
Wrap the loaf of bread in wax paper or unbleached parchment paper, and then place it in an airtight container once completely cooled—it will stay soft and fresh for up to 5 days.
Leave it stored at room temperature.
Use a sharp, thin-bladed knife and carefully run it around the cake's edges. Place a large enough plate over the cake and invert it while holding the plate firmly in place. Tap and gently shake the pan so the cake can come out in one piece. Set the pan aside. The cake is now upside down. Gently turn the cake back around—and voila.
Whether savory or sweet, a quick bread recipe usually doesn't require any yeast, lots of kneading, or a lengthy rising time—think breadsticks, banana bread, zucchini, or cornbread.
They are often relatively easy to prepare and rely on baking powder or baking soda as a raising agent.
Some bakers might not even call them authentic bread at all—debatable for certain types of quick bread. But, I would agree that like this moist orange cake loaf, most sweet quick loaves of bread are similar to cakes. They're just baked in loaf pans that give you these delicious bread-like slices to enjoy for breakfast.
You might also like
- Warm Spiced Thumprint Cookies
- The Most Delicious Gluten-free Speculoos Cookies
- Apple-Bacon Pancake with Buckwheat Flour
- Gluten-free Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts
- Homemade Speculaas (Speculoos) Cookies
- Chocolate Mascarpone Sandwich Cookies
- Waffle Charcuterie Board with 4 different waffle flavors
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- 2 ¼ cups Spelt flour (280 grams), plus more to coat the pan
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon of orange zest (from one large orange)
- 1 cup packed diced oranges (about two small or one large orange—200 grams)
- 1 cup maple syrup (280 ml)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup butter, melted (227 grams or two ¼ pound butter sticks), plus more to coat the pan
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/ 180 degrees C.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, ground cloves, and orange zest. I use a whisk to mix these ingredients evenly and break any clumps and fluff up the flour—set aside.
- The flour will smell deliciously orangy from the zest with a hint of cloves aroma, but you won't see any zest or spices anymore.
- In a blender, add the diced oranges and maple syrup. Blend until pureed and well combined—it's okay if you see a few strings from the oranges.
- Transfer the pureed orange-maple syrup mixture into the reserved flour bowl. Stir to combine, and then add the beaten eggs and melted butter—see note.
- Stir everything using a whisk until well combined, and you get a beautiful light orangy batter. The batter will be wet but airy and fluffy.
- Coat the inside of the loaf pan with butter, then shake in a bit of flour (coating all sides), and tap out the excess.
- Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the loaf is springy to the touch, and a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean—see note.
- Cool completely before removing from the pan—see note.
Equipment: a nine by 5-inch loaf pan
Ground cloves: for a more robust clove flavor, add about ¾ teaspoon of ground cloves.
Orange zest: You need about one large orange to create about one tablespoon of zest. Make sure to have an extra orange in case yours turns out smaller. Thoroughly wash the orange peel. Use a fine grater, zest the peel until you have about one tablespoon; set aside.
Diced orange: Once you have the orange zest, set aside and remove the remaining skin of the orange(s). Dice or cut the peeled orange(s) into smaller pieces. You need about a cup or 200 grams for this recipe. I use a sizeable juicy navel orange, but any orange will do as long as it is fresh and sweet.
Blender: You can use a Vitamix, a small blender like a Nutribullet, or a food processor.
Melted butter: Melt the butter pieces in a small saucepan or frying pan over the lowest heat setting. Stir the butter pieces frequently with a wooden spoon until completely melted to prevent the butter from becoming hot or too warm.
Baking time: My orange cake loaf always bakes for precisely 60 minutes. However, It's best to check and test for doneness at around 50 minutes into baking time and then every 5 minutes until you've reached the hour.
Cool the cake before removing it from the loaf pan: How long it takes depends on room temperature. Use a sharp, thin-bladed knife when cooled down and carefully run it around the cake's edges. Place a large enough plate over the cake and invert it while holding the plate firmly in place. Tap and gently shake the pan so the cake can come out in one piece. Set the pan aside. The cake is now upside down. Gently turn the cake back around.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 296Total Fat: 16.6gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 221mgCarbohydrates: 35.4gFiber: 3.4gSugar: 15.6gProtein: 4.5g
(% Daily Value) Vitamin D 13mcg 66%, Calcium 94mg 7%, Iron 1mg 8%, Potassium 315mg 7% Disclaimer: This nutritional data is calculated using third-party tools and is only intended as a reference.
This post was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated with new pictures and more information. In addition, based upon request, I've also included measurements in grams in the recipe card, extra tips, and more detailed instructions.