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I inherited my grandmother’s loaf pans. They’ve been around for years now, moving with me from house to house. I somehow ended up with a large one and half a dozen mini loaf pans. They are slightly warped from too many visits to the oven and a little stained from years of use.

I can picture her puttering around her sun-drenched kitchen like it was yesterday. She probably had a lipstick tucked in her pocket (she had at least one tube of lipstick in every jacket pocket I ever investigated) and the candy drawer left just slightly open so I could see the wrapped butterscotch candies she had for me. I can only imagine what she whipped up in those tiny little pans.

Without ever saying a word, she led the charge in celebrating everyday food. It was rarely fancy but always made with fresh ingredients. She was famous throughout the greater Spokane area for potato salad and Nanaimo bars. I’ve shared a handful of her recipes over the years, sometimes tweaking them slightly, but mostly just doing it how she did.

She loved to cook but probably enjoyed entertaining even more. Her kitchen overflowed with antique dishes she lovingly collected, specialty glasses and every kind of fork for any occasion you could dream up.

I delighted in drinking orange juice from a 1950s-era etched blue glass cup at her house as a child. A few years ago my husband tracked down a set of six for me on Ebay for Christmas. Those glasses make me smile every time I see them and my own children love nothing more than when I allow them to (carefully) enjoy a soda or juice from the glasses.

With the holiday season just around the corner, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put those loaf pans to work. Nothing is easier than whipping up a loaf cake. Perfect for an easy breakfast or doctored up with a dollop of whipped cream for dessert, a good loaf cake is the back-pocket recipe everyone needs this holiday season.

Pumpkin bread gets jazzed up with vanilla and orange scented dried cranberries. Pillowy soft, with a hint of spicy ginger, and a perfect crackly cinnamon-sugar crust, this cake is quintessential fall. Even better, it uses an entire can of pumpkin puree. I figure if we’re going to make something pumpkin, it should actually taste like it.

It’s perfect for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning or to divide between a few small pans or a muffin tin and share with friends and family. Even better, the cake stays moist and tender for a few days — if you can keep it around that long. I prefer to cut thick slices and slather with a little honey butter. Nothing tastes better on a cold dark morning than a generous slice of cake and a hot cup of coffee.

For the Bread

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Two pinches of ground cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Juice of an orange
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of ginger

Topping

  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Start by prepping the filling. In a small bowl combine dried cranberries with sugar, vanilla and orange juice. Stir gently. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to the bowl and give it one more stir. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large loaf pan with parchment paper or spray it with cooking spray. (Quick side note: make sure you have a 6-cup loaf pan because this makes a LARGE cake. You can certainly divide the batter between several small loaf pans or make muffins. The mini loaves make a lovely hostess gift).

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, butter, eggs and sugar until smooth. Sprinkle baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves over batter and whisk until well-combined. Add flour and stir with a spoon until just mixed. Add the cranberries, juice and all to the batter, mixing gently. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth the top.

In a small dish, or empty measuring cup, stir sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle over top of batter. Bake bread for 65 to 75 minutes until a tester poked into all parts of cake comes out batter-free, turning the cake once during the baking time for even coloring.

Cool it in the pan for at least 10 minutes and then remove it, or cool it completely in the pan. Cake keeps at room temperature. Cover loosely with tinfoil or plastic wrap if you have leftovers.