Cranberry-Maple Skillet Cornbread

Cranberry maple skillet cornbread

Thanksgiving was a trip. I went home for five days and, after being away for a while, was able to appreciate family dynamics, friendships and Oklahoma culture with fresh eyes. On Thanksgiving day, we all squeezed into my grandma Virginia’s new house near the Panhandle. She and her sister, my great-aunt Bettie, now split a condo, which seems to me like a sweet living situation for growing older.

As promised, I brought Deb’s kale salad and learned that my small-town, greens-loving, gardener grandmother had never tried kale before. I am pleased to say that she is now a fan. I also brought this cranberry cornbread, which was such a resounding hit with my family that I’ve been itching to post it ever since. And after all my talk about drinking up on Thanksgiving, there was no wine bottle opener to be found in my grandmother’s down-sized drawers and no bourbon in sight. Bless her.

cranberry cornbread ingredients

The next day, I met up with my three closest lady friends for lunch. We’ve grown up together, the four of us. One has gotten married [we were bridesmaids] and given birth [we were in the waiting room] to the most beautiful dark-haired baby girl named Ruby. Ruby is sixteen months old now. She walks and talks and when Camille says “I love you” to Ruby, Ruby quips back in her little voice with, “I know.” I would do anything for that tiny lady.

The holiday break wouldn’t have been complete without my middle brother and I getting into an epic argument in our parents’ living room. This one began over—wait for it—the high price of taxidermy, and wasn’t over until we had insulted each others’ taste in significant others and footwear. (I would have kicked him with my “elf booties,” but he’s much stronger than he used to be.) That brother and I will probably always clash over our differences, but the underlying truth is that we wouldn’t get so riled up if we didn’t care so much about each other. Family is funny that way.

cranberry cornbread batter

Enough gushy, post-holiday rambling, you say? Ok, let’s talk about the cornbread. This cornbread is my riff on Aida Mollenkamp’s recipe for sage-maple skillet cornbread from her new cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen. Though I’ve bookmarked at least half of the vegetarian recipes in her book (there are many) with serious intentions to try them all, this one got first call. I’d been on the hunt for a perfectly textured cornbread recipe, and her recipe caught my eye because it is naturally sweetened with maple syrup and baked in a cast iron skillet. My affection for my cast iron skillets runs deep.

cranberry maple cornbread

I bought Aida’s book a few weeks ago and finally found the time to pore over it while sitting in the passenger’s seat during our Thanksgiving Day drive. There is a lot to love about it: the photos are beautiful, the well-tested recipes are inventive yet practical, and the techniques demonstrated in the recipes are invaluable. I really wanted to give Aida a high five when I read the last paragraph of the introduction: This isn’t about becoming pretentious about food, but rather the opposite. The minute you take the time to learn these basics, you’ll waste less food, you’ll get more for every food dollar you spend, and you’ll become a healthier, more accomplished, and more adventurous cook. Yes!

cranberry maple skillet cornbread

Cranberry Maple Skillet Cornbread
5.0 from 6 reviews
Recipe type: Quick Bread
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 to 12
This buttery, maple-sweetened, cranberry-studded whole grain cornbread develops an irresistibly crisp crust when baked in a cast iron skillet. You can also bake it in a 9-inch square baking dish for delicious results, albeit a slightly less crisp crust. Change up the recipe by omitting the cranberries and adding ½ cup grated cheese, 1 cup sweet corn, chopped peppers and/or herbs.
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups medium grind cornmeal, preferably stone ground
  • 1½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1½ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup maple syrup (preferably grade B)
  • 1½ cups fresh cranberries
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the middle of the oven. Place the stick of butter in a 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch square baking dish and place in the oven to melt for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and syrup until smooth. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until moistened through.
  3. When the butter is melted and golden brown but not burnt, carefully remove the sizzling skillet from the oven and swirl to coat with butter. Pour the melted butter into the batter, add the cranberries and stir just until incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into the hot skillet or baking pan. Return the skillet to the oven and bake until the bread is brown around the edges, springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few crumbs, 25 to 35 minutes. Invert the bread onto a wire rack to cool. Slice into squares or wedges and serve.
  • Adapted from Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, Adventurous Cook by Aida Mollenkamp.
  • Aida's original recipe called for ⅔ cup maple syrup, so you could increase the amount of liquid sweetener to up to ⅔ cup for sweeter results. Aida notes that you can substitute agave nectar, honey or brown sugar for the maple syrup, but I haven't tried.
  • Make your own buttermilk by adding 1½ tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar to 1½ cups low-fat milk.


  1. says

    How cute! Grandma and great aunt Bettie :) Oh man, taxidermy fights for the win! Ha! This cornbread sounds wonderful, though, and I’ve heard such great things about Aida’s cookbook. Glad you had a good Thanksgiving :)

    • says

      My grandma and Bettie are quite the pair! My brother really did fight about taxidermy… and the trailer hitch-sized hole in my car’s front bumper. And shoes.

    • says

      The skillet method is definitely the way to go! Sara’s recipe looks great, too. I’m looking forward to trying a more savory spin on this base recipe by adding some cheese and hot peppers.

  2. Grace says

    This looks great. I really need to try more cranberry dishes. I was lucky enough to meet Aida at a cooking class she hosted in SF this week. I haven’t had time to read the whole cookbook yet but it’s on my rainy weekend to do list this weekend! I think it’s time I buy a cast iron skillet.

    • says

      I’m pretty obsessed with cranberries this time of year. I’m jealous you got to meet Aida! So cool. You need a cast iron skillet. Add it to your Christmas list! You’ll use it forever.

  3. Denise says


    When I make corn bread, I use 1/2 plain yogurt and 1/2 milk to get a buttermilk consistency. And yes, always in a cast iron skillet greased up with our home rendered lard. The addition of cranberries looks wonderful.

  4. says

    LOL sometimes I’d like to kick my brother with my elf booties too, but he’s bigger than me now! ;) Love the looks of this cornbread recipe; I’m a sucker for whole fresh cranberries in baked goods. And cast iron.

    • says

      Thanks, Tessa! I made this cornbread the day you came over but it’s not gluten free. :( Cast iron is my favorite cooking/baking surface. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s the best!

  5. says

    Wow, Kate! I never would’ve thought to put cranberries in cornbread, but now that you’ve done it, it makes so much sense! Why wouldn’t we want to combing two thanksgiving favorite into one, probably even more delicious dish! This will be a must-make on my next thanksgiving list, but most probably much sooner than that.

  6. says

    Kate, I woke up wanting to make this and had a big slice for breakfast. I love the crispiness on the outside and the softness inside… It has the true cornbread taste and I love that it isn’t too sweet and dry like some cornbread recipes tend to be! Thanks for sharing and by the way, you helped push me to get a cast iron skillet a couple of months ago! I love it!

    • says

      I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed the cornbread, Margarita. I’m excited to have found a great base cornbread recipe. I’m glad you’re enjoying the skillet, too! Cast iron is my favorite cooking/baking surface.

  7. says

    Hahaha. The high price of taxidermy. That’s pretty awesome. At least it’s something different and you didn’t argue about politics or religion or something that’s been done to death.

    This bread looks delightful! I love the addition of cranberries. :)

    • says

      Thanks, Erin. I try to avoid bringing up politics, but that taxidermy comment got me all riled up! I love this cornbread, hope you get a chance to try it soon.

  8. says

    Love the skillet idea — Alex was just mentioning wanting to do more breads / pizzas in the skillet. This looks delicious :) And — love the elf booties. (I’m pretty sure I’m imagining them correctly..!)

    • says

      Thanks, Sonja. I use my cast iron skillets any chance I get. Thanks for the boot compliment. My brother doesn’t know what he’s talking about! They’re cute, I swear.

  9. Kendall says

    I just made this and it was great- perfect cornbread consistency in my book. I halved the recipe for my small cast iron pan (two full eggs worked fine) but I swapped a sweet apple for the cranberries and it worked beautifully. I didn’t have cranberries but an apple I bit into and didn’t like on its own (I like crisp and tart- this was a jonagold and the opposite on both fronts) but cut up and thrown into a maply, buttery cornbread sounded great so I tried it and now I don’t think I’ll ever make cornbread without it again!

    • says

      I never would have thought to add apple to cornbread! Now I want to try. Thanks for commenting, Kendall, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. Great idea to cut the recipe in half, too. It does make quite a bit. I’ve been defrosting leftover slices and eating them for breakfast with jam and peanut butter.

  10. says

    Kate – I love your twist on this cornbread recipe. It sounds like you had a lovely holiday and I’m honored that my cornbread made the cut. Thanks for sharing “Keys To The Kitchen” with your friends and readers!

    • says

      Thank you, Aida, for producing such an amazing cookbook! And thank you for the sweet comment. I’m sure I’ll be posting more recipes inspired by your book soon. Happy holidays!

  11. Meleah says

    Love this cornbread! The cranberries make it amazing and its so easy. I used a 10 inch skilled and it popped up a bit over the edge, but still worked and was delicious with the edges browned. MMm! I am planning on having this as my permanent cornbread recipe even without the cranberries, its that good and simple.

    • says

      Thanks for commenting, Meleah. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. I was afraid the bread would pop over the sides of my pan but it didn’t quite make it. I think this will be my cornbread recipe base from now on, too. Can’t wait to try a more decadent Southwestern approach by adding some grated cheese and chopped peppers.

  12. barbara says

    thank you for this recipe! i made it yesterday (i europeanized it by using honey instead of maple syrup and apple instead of cranberries), it’s so yummy! Now I finally know what cornbread is. :-) But I was wondering if you really meant 1 table spoon salt? To me that seems quite a lot!

    • says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, Barbara. Your substitutions sound great. The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and I didn’t find the bread to be too salty that way, so it seemed about right. If you are using a finer salt, you would want to use less.

  13. says

    Ok, I need a cast iron skillet. It’s ridiculous that I don’t own one at this stage in my life, but I need to change that. I’ve got to make this bread.

  14. says

    I just wanted you to know that I did indeed go out and buy a cast iron skillet just to make this bread. It was so delicious! I ate it for breakfast for 3 days, warmed up with maple syrup drizzled over it. I just posted it on my blog. Thanks for a great recipe!

  15. Marie says

    Such a great recipe for corn bread! I made this without the cranberries and with some shedded cheese on top and served it for a BBQ. I also cut down on the sweetness a bit (and used honey since I was out of maple sirup).. Anyway, this will be my new staple corn bread recipe. Can’t wait to try out differnt versions (like the cranberry one).

    • says

      Thanks, Marie! I really want to try your cheesy version. I might add some peppers, too, to make it spicy! So glad you enjoy the recipe as much as I do.

  16. Maddie says

    Just finished making this and it’s delicious! Being in Australia I haven’t tried many cornbreads, it tends not to be something you find here at all. But from the photos I had to give it a go. I didn’t have fresh cranberries so I had to use dried ones and it was still scrumptious. I also didn’t have a skillet so I used muffin tins and a loaf tin and both came out great with nice crispy edges. Thanks for the recipe! My fellow Aussie roommates loved it too!

  17. Lis says

    Beautiful, delicious bread and so fragrant. I did swap the salt to 1 TSP from a tablespoon and it worked fabulously.

  18. Nicole says

    Kate, this is SO delicious, and pretty to look at, too! Taking a few cues from your baked dessert recipes, I made this dairy-free by substituting the butter with coconut oil and the buttermilk with almond milk (made “sour” with a bit of white vinegar). It came out great!
    I have been so happy since I recently discovered your blog, Kate! Loving these amazing and beautiful recipes.

  19. Lisa says

    Kate, I don’t mean to make you gasp but is there a dairy free version of this recipe? Or is it impossible to have that rich consistency without the butter and buttermilk? I may try my version of cornbread and add cranberries but I thought I’d ask just in case you have a recommendation. Thanks!

    • says

      Hey Lisa! It *might* be possible, but I have not tried. I’ve heard that you can brown Earth Balance butter like you can regular butter, and you could make your own buttermilk by combining non-dairy milk with some vinegar (see the recipe note on that). Please let me know if you give it a try!

  20. says

    I made this last week and it was yummy! I had been planning to try to adapt a recipe I’ve used before to use honey instead of sugar, and whole wheat flour…and then my husband said maple syrup sounded good…and that led me to this recipe! I didn’t have cranberries on hand but will have to try it another time.

  21. Marnie Schwartz says

    Oh, Oh, Oh! Fresh Cranberries and Corn Bread! I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. Thank you, Dziekuje, Diolch, Dziakuy, Danke,
    Domo arigato, Dziakuy, Efharisto, Gracias, Grazie, Hristo, Kasih, Kiitos, Koszi , Mahalo,Mahalo nui, Merci, Obrigado, Shukran, Spasibo (Russian), Tack, Tak, Takk, Terima, Todah (Hebrew), Xiexie (Mandarin)

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