2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces pitted dates, preferably Medjool (about 7 dates)
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/4 cups of the cream with the butter, corn syrup and sugar; bring to a boil. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 40 minutes. Carefully whisk in the remaining 1 1/4 cups of cream. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a bowl.
In a small saucepan, simmer the dates in the water over moderately low heat until the water is nearly absorbed and the dates are soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer the dates and any liquid to a food processor and puree until very smooth.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly butter six 1/2-cup ramekins. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then beat in the date puree. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter into the ramekins and smooth the tops. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean; let cool slightly.
Using a small serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes level with the rims of the ramekins. Unmold the cakes and invert them onto a wire rack. Slice each cake in half horizontally. Wipe out the ramekins and spoon 1 tablespoon of the toffee sauce into each. Return the bottom layers of the cakes to the ramekins, cut side up. Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce into the ramekins and top with the remaining cake layers. Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce over the cakes and spread evenly. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the toffee is bubbling around the edges.
Let the puddings cool for 5 minutes, then run a thin-bladed knife around the insides of the ramekins; invert each pudding onto a dessert plate. Rewarm the remaining toffee sauce and spoon some around the puddings. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.