There’s always room for something sweet for Ramadan, and these sweet little cakes do the trick. You can even freeze them for later if you’ve only got a small crowd around. Best of all, they include dates, which are often traditional during iftars.
Recipe note: The undipped cakes can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for 2 days or frozen for 1 month. The toffee syrup can be refrigerated for up to 1 month. To serve, warm the cakes (thawed, if frozen) briefly in the microwave before dipping them in the warmed toffee.
FOR THE PUDDINGS
• 8 ounces pitted Deglet Noor dates
• 1 cup (240 milliliters) hot water
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 1/2 cups (187 grams) all-purpose flour
• 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 6 tablespoons (76 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
• 2 large eggs, at room temperature
FOR THE TOFFEE SYRUP
• 1 cup (240 milliliters) heavy cream
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter
• 3/4 cup (152 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
Position the baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
Make the puddings: In a food processor, pulse the dates until finely chopped. (This can also be done by hand, but the machine does a better job.)
In a medium bowl, stir together the dates, hot water and baking soda. Let rest for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Still on medium, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the flour mixture in two additions on low speed. Scrape down the bowl.
Add the date mixture in three additions on low speed and mix until incorporated.
Fill each muffin cup three-fourths full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the puddings comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the puddings from the muffin pan and onto the rack.
Make the toffee syrup: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, butter and brown sugar and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the syrup from the heat, poke the puddings all over with a skewer, and dip each cake, one at a time, into the syrup, turning them over and over to soak them well before transferring to a (microwaveable) serving plate.
To serve, heat the puddings in the microwave for 20 seconds. Serve warm. Warm any remaining toffee syrup over low heat and serve on the side.
VARIATION: To make one giant pudding, butter a 2-quart porcelain souffle dish (or similar-sized baking dish that is 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 inches in diameter and has tall sides). Make the sauce first and pour half of it into the dish. Chill in the freezer while you make the batter. Transfer the batter to the dish, smooth the top and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. (Loosely tent the top with the foil if it starts to look too dark.) Serve straight from the dish, with the remaining sauce on the side.
Adapted from “Rasika: Flavors of India” by Ashok Bajaj and Vikram Sunderam with David Hagedorn (Ecco, 2017).