For the pudding:
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. (3 1/8 oz.) all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. warm water
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. pitted dates, cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices, divided
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. (2 5/8 oz.) packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
For the sauce:
4 tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter
½ cup (3½ oz.) packed brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. rum (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour 4 (4 oz.) ramekins. Line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper. Place the ramekins in a baking dish large enough to hold them all comfortably.
In a liquid measuring cup, combine the water, baking soda, and half of the dates, pressing the dates down so that they are submerged. Set aside and let soak 5 minutes. Drain, reserving the excess liquid. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a food processor*, combine the remaining dates and the brown sugar. Pulse until just blended, about 5 1-second pulses. Add the reserved soaking liquid, the egg and vanilla. Process until smooth, about 15 seconds. With the processor running, pour the melted butter in through the feed tube in a steady stream.
Add the wet ingredient mixture and the drained dates to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Gently fold together until all ingredients are well mixed and evenly incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared ramekins. Use hot water to fill the baking dish, halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the entire pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the cakes are slightly puffed and small holes appear on the surface, about 35-40 minutes. (Be careful to avoid steam when removing the foil!) Immediately remove from the water bath and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
While the cakes cool slightly, make the toffee sauce by combining the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the sugar into the butter. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture puffs up a bit. Slowly pour in the cream and rum, whisking just until combined. Reduce heat to medium-low and maintain heat until warmed through, about 2-3 minutes.
To serve, invert the cakes onto serving plates. Remove the parchment paper. Drizzle the toffee sauce over the tops of the still-warm cakes. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
*This step could also possibly be done with a good quality blender, but I haven’t tried that method.