Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin, ramekins, or an 8’’ baking dish.
Add the dates to the bowl of a food process or blender and pour boiling water on top. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the batter: Cream together butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the molasses and mix.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and then stir into the batter.
Pulse the date mixture in a food processor, then stir in baking soda. Pour date mixture into batter (no need to strain) and fold in gently to combine (don’t over-mix).
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with few crumbs. Don’t overbake or cake will be dry. (For square baking pan, bake for 22-25 minutes).
Serve muffin cakes flat-side up, with warm toffee sauce on top.
Add cream, butter, brown sugar and salt to a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, and slightly thickened about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Spoon toffee sauce over cake and garnish with chopped walnuts, if desired.
Store the cakes and sauce (in an airtight container) separately for up to five days in the refrigerator.
Make Ahead Instructions: The sponge pudding and sauce can be made up to five days in advance, (stored separately) in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. To reheat individual servings, warm the cake in the microwave for 30 seconds, and the sauce in the microwave or stovetop until warm an pourable.Freezing Instructions: Wrap in cling foil with an extra layer of aluminum foil over the plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. Store and freeze sauce in an airtight container. Defrost and reheat.Recipe Variations:
Sub Prunes: If you don't like dates or don't have any on-hand, prunes make a good substitute. They, too, are sweet and have the right texture and consistency for this pudding.
Gluten-Free: Use 1 cup of gluten-free flour plus 1 1/4 tsp xanthan gum to help thicken the batter.
Vegan: Replace butter with vegan butter. I recommend using vegan butter from a block and not a spread as it is thicker and results in a better texture. In place of the two eggs, use two tablespoons of flax seeds (ground into a fine powder) and six tablespoons of water. For a dairy-free alternative to the heavy whipping cream, mix together3/4 cup soy, almond, or coconut milk with 1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil.