Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Work the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until evenly combined and the sugar feels like wet sand. Whisk in the vegetable oil, milk, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla until well combined.
Pour the sugar mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until no streaks of flour remain. Fold in the cranberries. Divide the batter among the paper liners. Sprinkle with more sugar, if desired.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Bake time may be a few minutes longer if using frozen cranberries.) Let cool for a few minutes in the pan before removing and enjoying.
Don’t use an electric mixer or could overmix the batter, resulting in dense muffins or large holes in the crumb. Just use a spatula and mix until everything is just combined.
Don’t open the oven door, or you risk the muffins deflating.
It is much easier to zest the orange before juicing.
Bring your eggs and milk to room temperature so it incorporates fully into the batter.
Press a few extra fresh cranberries on top of the muffins for a prettier presentation.
To check if the muffins are ready, insert a toothpick into the center of one muffin, and if it comes out clean with no wet batter, they have finished baking.
I recommend using real vanilla extract over artificial vanilla extract.
Measure your flour correctly! Adding too much flour to the recipe is the most common reason your muffins end up dense. The best and easiest way to measure flour is by using a scale. If you don’t have one, then fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle it into your measuring cup, and use a knife to level it off.
If you’re not using paper liners, make sure to butter and flour the wells of your muffin tin thoroughly. Let your cranberry muffins cool for at least 10 minutes before removing them from the tin.
Don’t just stir in the orange zest. When you work the zest into the sugar with your fingers, it releases the oil, adding flavor.