Arctic Cranberry Cake with Warm Butter Sauce Inspired by Polar Bears and Sunsets

Arctic Cranberry Cake with Warm Butter Sauce Inspired by Polar Bears and Sunsets

Wednesday, 6 October, 2021

Food and drinks are some of the easiest ways — and the most fun— to vicariously experience another culture. When you add a great book to the mix, you've got the makings of a perfect evening. In Food+Fiction, we recommend a delicious read and a related recipe so you can try the taste of different destinations in your own kitchen.

This post is part of our Food+Fiction series.

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The physical challenge and ethereal beauty of Arctic exploration have lured adventurers to the top of the world for centuries. The search for the Northwest Passage, in particular, drew brave and ambitious men to the Arctic Circle. Without exception, those voyages were fraught with danger but had an irresistible appeal. What better way to secure one’s legacy than to find the water route from Europe to the Far East by battling the ice of the Arctic Archipelago?

The list of navigators and sailors who searched for the Northwest Passage is an international Who’s Who of junior high geography lessons: John Cabot (Italy), Jacques Cartier (France), Francisco de Ulloa (Spain), and the most legendary of all: Sir John Franklin and his crews aboard the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror.

The Franklin Expedition set out in 1845 with 128 men, ships toughened up with iron plates, and enough food to last three years. But their fate remains something of a mystery: The ships were trapped in the ice and abandoned. The entire crew perished.

The historical novel The Arctic Fury tells that story from a completely different perspective. In the world of this novel, it’s the 1850s, and Lady Jane Franklin, the wife of the missing captain, hires a group of adventurous women to trek into the Arctic to find her husband. The expedition members are a stalwart, prickly bunch. Their journey from city life to the icy waters around Canada is filled with peril, secrets, revelations, friendship, rivalry, and maybe even murder. It’s a thrilling ride amongst excellent company.

These days, it’s far easier for adventurous travelers to visit the Arctic than it was when wooden ships were packed with canned food, sent on their way with incomplete maps, and everyone just hoped for the best.

Which brings us to Churchill Wild.

Polar Bear Safaris in Canada

Found on Canada’s Hudson Bay coast, Churchill Wild offers polar bear tours and safaris at three luxury lodges that are super comfy and eco-friendly. It’s now also on the top of our ‘must visit some day’ list.

aerial view of the inn at churchill wilds
Photo courtesy of Michael Poliza.
guest room in the inn at churchill wild
Photo courtesy of Mandy Wallman.
lounge in the inn at churchill wild
Photo courtesy of Jad Davenport.

The three lodges — Seal River Heritage Lodge, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, Dymond Lake Ecolodge — not only have adorable names. They’re directly in the path polar bears travel as they walk the coastline during summer and fall.

We at SSoP HQ are very much on Team Polar Bear — and so is Churchill Wild. They’re committed to ethical wildlife viewing.

polar bear in a field of flowers at sunset
Photo courtesy of Michael Poliza.

Visitors to Churchill Wild can also see black bears, wolves, colored and Arctic fox, Arctic hare, moose, and beluga whales. Plus the Northern Lights.

green aurora borealis over churchill wild
Photo courtesy of Dennis Fast.
sik sik sitting on a tree stump
Photo courtesy of Christian Baum.
white arctic fox in snow and brown arctic hare in flowers
Arctic fox photo courtesy of Sharon Simpson; Arctic hare photo courtesy of M. Breiter.
polar bear sleeping on a log
Photo courtesy of Robert Postma.

Blueberries and Polar Bears

Part of the safari experience at Churchill Wild is tundra-inspired cuisine. The founding chefs — Helen Webber and Marie Woolsey — are the authors of the Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbook series. Their menus feature locally sourced fish, wild meat, and produce from Prairie Wild, a sustainable orchard and produce farm in southern Manitoba.

One of the most popular recipes after a day tromping around with polar bears is this cranberry cake: a satisfying combination of tart berries, tender crumb, and luscious, warm butter sauce. We’ve been encouraged by the lovely folks at Churchill Wild to add it to our Thanksgiving menu; we say eat it anytime you want a sweet reminder of how beautiful this world can be.

slice of cranberry cake on a white plate
Wild Arctic Cranberry Cake from the cookbook 'Blueberries and Polar Bears.'

Arctic Cranberry Cake with Warm Butter Sauce

Serves 12. Total time 50 minutes. Adapted from Blueberries and Polar Bears.

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 3 cups flour (750 mL)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder (20 mL)
  • 2/3 teaspoon salt (2 mL)
  • 3 tablespoons butter (45 mL)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (375 mL)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (7 mL)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (375 mL)
  • 3 cups cranberries (750 mL)

Warm Butter Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup butter (175 mL)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (375 mL)
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream (175 mL)

A few words about cranberries: This recipe is made at Churchill Wild with wild cranberries, which are smaller than commercially grown berries. If you’re using cranberries from the store, you might want to coarsely chop them before adding them to the batter.

Gluten-free: To make gluten-free cake, replace the all-purpose flour with your favorite gluten-free blend, then add 1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder or potato starch.

Directions:

Prep. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Lightly grease a 9x13 (23 x 33cm) pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Make the batter. Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. (Note: This batter does not get as fluffy as other cakes. Proceed; all will be fine.) Add the flour to the butter, alternating with the milk, beating after each addition, until it’s just mixed.

Berries and baking. Stir in the cranberries. Spread the batter in the greased pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until it’s a lovely golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched. Meanwhile…

Prep the butter sauce. Combine the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Simmer for 2 minutes and remove from heat.

To serve, Slice the cake and drizzle with warm sauce.

 

Brooks drew a map from a hidden pocket and unrolled it on the table between them. He traced the route with a blunt fingertip as he went, hundreds of impossible miles streaming by in barely a sentence. ‘Train to Buffalo, canoes to Sault Ste. Marie, transport overland to Moose Factory, and a topsail schooner up the west side of Hudson Bay to Repulse Bay, arriving in late July. From there, you’ll make the overland trek to the search area. That’s King William’s Land, specifically Victory Point. That leaves you four months to trek in, search, and trek out before winter.’

‘Easy as falling off a log,’ said Virginia breezily. — Greer Macallister

The Arctic Fury

by Greer Macallister

In 1846, Captain John Franklin commanded two ships — the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror — on an expedition to the Arctic to navigate and map the Northwest Passage. Tragically, the ships were stranded in the ice, the men abandoned ship, and none of them was ever heard from again. This thrilling historical novel tells that story from a completely different perspective. In the world of this novel, it’s the 1850s, and Lady Jane Franklin, the wife of the missing captain, hires a group of adventurous women to trek into the Arctic to find her husband. Or to at least find out what happened to him. {more}

This historical adventure story (432 pages) was published in December of 2020 by Sourcebooks Landmark. The book takes you to 19th-century Boston and the Arctic. Melissa read The Arctic Fury and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

The Arctic Fury: A Novel

 

Top image courtesy of Rick Beldegreen.

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The Arctic has fascinated humans for centuries. For the right kind of person, its ethereal beauty and challenging climate are irresistible. For others, it's the polar bears and puffins. Bundle up, we're heading north.
Looking at photos of the Arctic has us wishing (at least a little) that we could chuck our everyday lives to stow away aboard a research vessel cutting through the sea ice. Polar bears! Northern lights! Salty stories!

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