1/2lbjujubespitted and coarsely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)*
1 1/2cupsall-purpose flour
8tbspunsalted butter1 stick, at room temperature
1cpacked light brown sugar
2large eggsat room temperature
For the caramel
4ozwater1/2 cup; 115g
8 1/2ozsugar1 1/4 cups; 240g
1/2tspkosher salt(2g); for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
1vanilla podreserved from another project
8ozheavy cream1 cup; 225g
For the cake:
Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat 16 (3-ounce) ramekins with butter and flour; set aside.
Combine dates, water, and baking soda in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and set aside.
Place salt and flour in a medium bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside. Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer over high heat for a water bath.
Combine butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add vanilla extract, then beat in eggs one at a time, just until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in date mixture until well combined, then stir in flour mixture until just incorporated (don’t overmix).
Divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins and set them in a roasting pan or baking dish (you will likely need to use both a 13-by-9-inch dish and an 8-by-8-inch dish to fit them all). Pour simmering water into the bottom of the baking dishes until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Very carefully place the baking dishes on the center rack of the oven. Bake until the center of each cake is just set and a cake tester inserted into the middle of each comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the caramel.
In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine water, sugar, and salt over medium heat. If you like, add an empty vanilla pod, too. Stir with a fork until syrup comes to a boil, about 4 minutes, then simmer without stirring until syrup is honey-colored, roughly 6 minutes, shaking and swirling as needed to ensure even caramelization. Continue cooking until syrup is light to medium amber, a minute more. Immediately add cream and reduce heat to medium-low.
Stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula to knock back the foam, simmer until caramel registers 225°F on a digital thermometer, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a heat-resistant container and cool to room temperature. Caramel will be runny while warm, but thicken as it cools, turning just a little chewy when cold. Refrigerate up to 1 month in an airtight container.
*I prefer jujubes since they are a little more tart and add a nice balance vs the sweetness of the cake and caramel. But dates, or raisins will work as well