7 oz pitted medjool dates (approximately 7-10 dates)
¾ cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
⅓ cup brown sugar packed
2 large eggs* at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup brown sugar packed
2 teaspoons unsulphured molasses (teaspoons, not tablespoons)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
heavy cream, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and/or flaky sea salt optional
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Finely chop the dates. You should have about 1 cup loosely packed. Place the dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water and sprinkle with baking soda. Stir, then allow the mixture to sit undisturbed for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and molasses until creamy and combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and beat until combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
After the dates have soaked for 20 minutes, mash or puree the dates along with the liquid. If the dates you used were moist you should be able to mash them easily with a fork. If the dates were really dry it will likely be easier to use an immersion blender or small food processor to puree (they don’t have to be completely smooth). Transfer all of the date mixture into the cake batter and beat until combined.
Grease ramekins (preferred)** or see notes for other pan sizes. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Depending on the size of your ramekins this can be anywhere from 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Place on a wire rack to cool.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cream, brown sugar, molasses, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking occasionally, and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Whisk in vanilla and set aside to cool slightly; it will thicken as it cools.
Assembly and serving:
While the cakes are still a little bit warm, remove them from the ramekins/muffin tin and place them on a baking sheet or a piece of foil or parchment paper. Note: the cakes will likely have a dome on top. If desired, you can use a serrated knife to level off the top. I prefer to level it off and serve the cakes upside down.
Brush all sides of the cakes with the toffee sauce, reserving the rest of the sauce for serving.
Serve the cake warm, drizzled with extra toffee sauce. Garnish with heavy cream, whipped cream, ice cream, and/or a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.
*To quickly bring eggs to room temperature: place the eggs in a bowl and cover with warm water and let them sit for 5-10 minutes.
**RAMEKINS: I have made this with 4-oz ramekins and 7-oz ramekins. I typically get 9-10 servings from the 4-oz ramekins, and 8 servings from the 7-oz ramekins.
MUFFIN PAN: Fill cups about two-thirds full. You should have between 10 and 12 cakes.
8X8 PAN: If you’d prefer to make one large cake, you can add the batter to a greased 8×8 baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool. When the cake is still slightly warm, brush the top with some of the toffee sauce, reserving the rest for serving.
BUNDT PAN: Use a 10-cup bundt pan and bake for 25-29 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool. When the cake is still slightly warm, carefully remove it from the pan and brush the exterior with some of the toffee sauce, reserving the rest for serving. I used this pan. Note: this makes a fairly petite bundt cake.