In a medium saucepan, add dates, boiling water and baking soda which helps to soften the fruit. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Halfway through cooking, stir and clean up the sides of the saucepan; cover and cook for the remaining time. Remove from the heat, add vanilla extract, cover and let it sit while prepping.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ginger, cloves and salt; whisk well. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and process until blended. Add half flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining half flour mixture and process until just blended. Add date mixture and process until well mixed, cleaning the sides of the bowl.
Pour batter in a buttered and floured muffin pan to ¾’s full. Gently tap the pan on the counter to remove any trapped air bubbles. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, add all the toffee sauce ingredients. Combine well and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often.
When pudding is done, place the muffin pan on a wire rack and using a toothpick, poke holes in each muffin. Pour about 1 tablespoon of toffee sauce on top of each. If desired, when the sauce is absorbed, glaze with cream cheese icing.
When time to serve, pour a generous amount of warm toffee sauce over each pudding. If not using cream cheese icing, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Makes 12 servings.