“So Kal Skirata– mercenary, assassin, and failed father– spent a stormy evening on Kamino sharing uj cake with six dangerously clever small boys who could already handle firearms and talk like adults, teaching them that they came from a warrior tradition, and that they had a language and a culture, and much to be proud of.” – Republic Commando: Hard Contact, by Karen Traviss, 2004
Uj cake, or Uj’alayi, was first mentioned in the novel Republic Commando: Hard Contact, by Karen Traviss, published in 2004. There’s not a lot of description of it, apart from sliceable, sweet, and flavorful. Combining that with the wiki description: “A flat, dense, and sticky cake, uj’alayi was made of crushed nuts, dried fruits, and a sweet spiced syrup known as uj’ayl“, I had something in mind, but to be sure I was on the right track, I asked the author and originator of the dish. She confirmed that she’d been thinking of Panforte de Sienna, which was pretty close to what I had in mind, so that’s the route I’ve taken. Isn’t social media amazing? :)
In the novel, we see Kal Skirata teaching several very young clone troopers about the Mandalorian heritage they have, and that includes the food. While some of it might be a hard sell to boys trained to be soldiers and nothing else, the uj cake smooths the way.
And no wonder. This dense disc of assorted fruits and nuts is held together with tangy molasses and honey, laced with rich spices. It’s the kind of treat that feels heavy with history and culture, as well, so I think it’s a great match for that delicious sounding Mandalorian treat.
Consider serving with either Cassius Tea or a steaming cup of Spiced Caf.
I’ve added this recipe to the lineup for Fictional Foodies’ May Star Wars lineup. Check out the other cool recipes folks have submitted here.
Uj’alayi Cake Recipe
Cook’s notes: This is the assortment that I put into my recipe, but if you are constrained by budget or availability of ingredients, just aim for 2 1/2 cups of nuts, and 2 1/2-3 cups of dried fruit.
Prep: 20 minutes Baking: 45 minutes Cooling: 45 minutes
Makes: 10-20 servings, depending on size
Location: Mandalore, Outer Rim Territories
- 2 cups walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup candied mixed peel
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup diced dried figs
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- 1/4 cup dried cherries
- 2 heaping Tbs. diced candied ginger
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground mace
- pinch each fresh pepper, curry powder
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2/3 cup pomegranate or date molasses
- 2 Tbs. butter
- confectioners’ sugar, for topping
Preheat your oven to 300°F and line an 8″ round cake pan with parchment and butter the parchment and the sides of the pan. If you have a springform pan, I think those work best.
Combine the nuts, candied peel, dried fruits, spices, salt, and flour in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine, making sure to break up any clumps of stuck-together fruit or overly large nut pieces.
Combine the sugar, molasses, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it up to a boil, and then keep cooking down until it reaches soft ball stage, about 245°F. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the bowl of nuts and fruits. Stir thoroughly and quickly to make sure the flour is all absorbed and the mixture is evenly covered, then scrape it all into the prepared pan. Press it down firmly with moistened fingers, then bake for ~40 minutes.
It won’t seem firm enough when it comes out of the oven, but let it sit for another 45 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it. Flip out onto a cutting surface lined with more parchment paper.
Uj cake can be wrapped tightly and kept for several months at room temperature. Slice into thin wedges to serve.