Crayton decided a few days ago that he wanted to make figgy pudding for Christmas this year. He'd been humming "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on Wednesday night when he suddenly asked, "What is figgy pudding, anyway?" We looked it up on the Internet and discovered it was a cake filled with dried, boozy fruits. We found a recipe by Dorie Greenspan and it seemed easy enough: whip up a type of cake batter, add some spices, scrape it into a bundt pan. The cake did need to be steamed, which meant we'd cook it on the stove top in a water bath. But we could do that. I had a new tamale-steamer that could double as a stock pot. So, on Christmas Eve, I shopped for figgy pudding ingredients while Crayton worked. Found everything quickly except for the dried figs, which took me two hours to find. Eventually scored them at the El Progreso spice shop near Mercado San Juan. On Christmas Day, Crayton made the whole thing almost entirely by himself. I hovered nearby and washed the dishes, and chopped the apricots. I prayed he wouldn't burn the house down. Lighting the cake on fire is a key part of figgy pudding presentation, and that's all he kept talking about: "We're going to make figgy pudding and light it on fire!" The pudding finished cooking in about two hours. Crayton used a knife to loosen the pudding's edges, just like the recipe said. (He'd printed out a copy and placed it on the kitchen table, for handy reference.) When he was done loosening the cake, I started to advise him on how to invert it onto our wire cooling rack. Before I could say more than two words, though, he simply picked up the pan and tipped it over. Plop. The pudding fell out in one big mass. I winced. But the cake looked fine. More than fine -- it was pretty. And it tasted fantastic: hearty, moist, and soaked in bits of alcohol-drenched fruit. I liked the apricots the best, but Crayton loved the raisins. "They're little booze bombs," he said. No lie. We had wine with dinner and after one slice of cake for dessert, I felt my head swimming. Crayton asked if I wanted to see Avatar later on that evening, and I shook my head. "I'm drunk," I said. But three hours and many glasses of water later, I felt fine. We saw Avatar after all. It was good, if you disregarded the dialogue. Oh, and Crayton did light the cake on fire, fulfilling his one Christmas wish. The flames only burned for a few seconds before they went out. Next time, I'll pour the rum while he has the match ready. We're making figgy pudding an annual Christmas tradition. Recipe below. Figgy Pudding Adapated almost exactly from Dorie Greenspan's recipe on NPR Note: This recipe originally called for dried cherries, but I couldn't find them so I substituted dried apricots, which, in my mind, had a similar tang. Also, I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose, which added just a touch of heartiness to the pudding. Lastly, you'll need a bundt pan with a capacity of 8 to 10 cups, and a large stock pot with a lid that can hold the bundt. We used my tamale steamer pot without the insert. You can serve this with whipped cream or ice cream, but we ate it plain, having neither in the house. It was wonderful. Ingredients About 15 dried figs, cut into small triangular pieces (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups) 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup dark rum 1/3 cup brandy 1/2 cup raisins 1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 3 large eggs 1 cup brown sugar, packed 2 cups fresh white bread crumbs, made from an 8" piece of baguette 4 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled 1 cup chopped dried apricots 1 cup dried cranberries 1/3 cup brandy, to flame the pudding Grease your bundt pan with a layer of cooking spray, and a layer of butter. (Seems like a lot, but trust me, you want it to be nice and greasy, as to facilitate removing the pudding later.) Place figs and water in a saucepan, and bring water to boil. Simmer until the water has almost completely evaporated. Add the brandy, rum and raisins, and bring to another boil. Remove the pan from the heat and place in an open space. Keeping the pan lid nearby, set the alcohol on fire and let burn slowly for two minutes. (Note: This sounds kind of insane, but the flames are soft and mellow here. Shouldn't be a hairspray-and-lighter type of explosion.) Extinguish the flames by putting the lid on the pan. After a few seconds, remove the lid, and set the newly uncovered pan aside. Whisk together your dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, and set aside. Then, in a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and brown sugar until well blended. Stir in the bread crumbs, butter and boozy dried-fruit mixture. Gently stir in the dry ingredients into your wet ingredients, and then fold in your apricots and cranberries. Pour the batter into your bundt pan, and seal tightly with aluminum foil. Place in the stock pot and fill with hot water until it's about 1/2 to 2/3 up the sides of the cake pan. Bring water to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Cover the stock pot with aluminum foil, and then seal tightly with a lid. Simmer for two hours, adding more water as needed, until the pudding is done. To test for doneness, carefully remove the lid and various layers of aluminum foil. Insert knife in the center of the cake, toward the tube. If the knife comes out clean, it's done. Remove the pan to a cooling rack, and let sit for 5 minutes. To invert: Loosen the sides with a knife and place the cooling rack on top of the bundt pan. Gently, and with the help of someone else, if you can, grab both sides of the cooling rack and flip the bundt pan upside-down. Then lift the pan up slowly, wiggling it slightly to loosen the pudding from the mold. (Do NOT just pick up the pan and tip it over, as Crayton did; some of the pudding could end up stuck in the pan, and it could lose its shape.) Let the pudding cool for 30 minutes. To flame the pudding, heat 1/3 cup of brandy over medium heat. Pour over the warm cake, and working quickly, light a match and set it aflame. Serve in large slices -- you'll finish it, trust me.