Cranberry Orange Bread Pudding with Vanilla Rum Sauce

Dense, sweet bread pudding with rum soaked cherries and decadent vanilla rum caramel sauce

It’s a Christmas theme for this month’s Cooking Club and that means warm, dense, oh-so-sweet bread pudding glazed with warm vanilla rum sauce. Cranberry orange challah bread sets this traditional holiday dessert over the top and I’m so excited to share this recipe.

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But first, let me take you back to how the Soave’s spent Christmas last year. We were on a caribbean cruise with my parents so while everyone in Michigan was buried in snow, my family and I were on the most brilliant beach I’ve ever laid eyes on somewhere in the Virgin Islands.

During the time most people were opening presents Christmas morning, we were facedown in crystal blue caribbean waters examining incredible marine life through foggy snorkeling goggles. We’d take turns laying on the beach and going for a swim while sipping rum punch in between rotations.

On our way back to the ship that day we sampled some rum from a local vendor and picked up some Mexican vanilla at the market. Anyone who’s baked with real Mexican vanilla will tell you it’s way better than what you typically find at the store.

For me, rum and vanilla are the flavors of the caribbean. The warm scent of the two always makes me think of secluded sandy beaches and palm trees waving in the breeze.

We just returned from a trip to Punta Cana last week and I’m still reminiscing on those caribbean flavors, especially the rum. And since we’ve sort of staked a tradition of being in the islands around Christmas, these are the flavors I want to share in this dessert.

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Katie graciously opened her home for us this month and allowed us to take over her kitchen. Anna brought breads and cheeses for us to snack on while we cooked and Emily made delicious cranberry chicken. Ashton was in charge of the salad and everything came out amazing.

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This dessert comes together quick and is perfect for potlucks or big dinners. The bread pudding gets infused with vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon and has an additional kick of flavor from cherries steeped in dark spiced rum.

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And the sauce just sets it over the top. Sugar and cream create the base for a decadent caramel while orange, spiced rum, and vanilla add so much warmth.

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Cranberry Orange Bread Pudding with Vanilla Rum Sauce

For the Bread Pudding

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes’ Bread Pudding 

  • 1/2 Cup Dried Cherries
  • 1/4 Cup Spiced Rum
  • 1 Loaf of Cranberry Orange Challah Bread cut into 1 inch cubes (French Loaf or Ciabatta would work here)
  • 3 1/2 Cups Milk
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp Cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp Butter, melted

For the Sauce

  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Butter
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 Cup Orange Juice
  • 2 Tbsp Spiced Rum
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the cherries and rum and let steep for 5-10 minutes until the cherries are plump. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add the bread crumbs to the bowl and combine.

Pour the butter into a 9×13 pan. Add the bread mixture to the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top of the bread pudding is browned and the edges are pulling away from the sides.

Make the sauce while the bread pudding bakes. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and add the  sugars, cream, and orange juice. Bring the combination to a boil and turn the heat to medium low allowing it to simmer for about 5 minutes while stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the rum and vanilla.

Top the bread pudding with the sauce and serve warm.