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Inspired by a 1926 New England cookbook, this delicious cranberry orange festival cake is easy, affordable and perfect for all your holiday stops.

Every year, I turn to cookbooks far and wide for inspiration on developing a new recipes for Thanksgiving treats. This year, I happened upon a 1926 cookbook called Better Homes Recipe Book by Marjorie Mills. It was a cookbook published by the Boston Herald Traveler. A test kitchen on Tremont Street in Boston served as home base for all of the recipe testing that went into the cookbook. The forward describes women of all types sharing their New England culinary wisdom over the aromas of freshly made food. I can just imagine the scene!

The cookbook is very old and is filled with newspaper clippings from the 1970s, recipes from family swaps, original leaflets from old Reynolds Wrap and Pyrex products, recipes typed on vellum paper, and handwritten recipes on the backs of old envelopes and scratch paper. This is usually where you find gold when recipe digging.

The one recipe that caught my eye was a typed recipe on vellum paper for a cranberry festival cake. I imagine the cake got its name after being served at many cranberry festivals held throughout Massachusetts; we have bogs everywhere here. The ingredient list is simple, yet I updated it for a healthier treat, based on what I had on hand in the house. The original recipe calls for shortening and whole milk. I substituted olive oil. The result is a super moist cake bursting with chopped tart cranberries. I added a modern twist by throwing in orange zest and finishing it with a cost effective glaze made using the juice from the orange.

You can make this as a cake or cupcakes, or in a bundt pan, which is what I chose. It slices well, travels even better and is reminiscent of the New England women who carried on a tradition of thrifty yet tasty quick breads perfect for Thanksgiving. My taste testers gave this recipe a perfect score. I’d love to hear what you think. Happy Thanksgiving moms!


Cranberry orange festival cake

Recipe courtesy of Susannah Locketti.


1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

    3/4 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

    1/4  teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped frozen cranberries

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Juice from fresh orange

Orange zest to garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a bundt pan with nonstick olive oil spray.

In a large bowl, add oil through vanilla and whisk until thoroughly combined. Sift flour through salt twice and add to wet mixture stirring just until moist. Batter may appear lumpy. Fold In the cranberries and zest and spoon batter into bundt pan. Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar and enough orange juice to form a thick yet smooth glaze. Glaze the top of the cake while still warm and top with remaining orange zest.

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Nov. 22, 2010 at 4:41 AM

Thank you for sharing this.....Minus the glaze...I could make this right now!!!!The ingredients are so simple,,,,This will be great just in time for Thanksgiving...

It is refreshing to see someone who wants to share culture here in the journals....:)

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