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Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. Whisk together the flour, ground cardamom, baking powder and ½ tsp salt. Set aside.
Combine 1 tbsp of the flour mix with the chopped dates and toss to coat. Set aside.
Beat the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 30 seconds until smooth. Tip in the brown sugar and beat on high speed until pale, light and fluffy, about 8-10 mins. Add the vanilla and beat again to combine. With the motor on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Heat the milk in a heatproof jug in the microwave for 20 seconds until warm, but not hot. Stir in the coffee granules until dissolved. Set aside.
Sift a quarter of the flour mix into the butter and egg mixture, then use a spatula to fold together until just combined. Fold through a third of the milky coffee. Repeat until all the components are used and no streaks of flour remain. Fold in the dates.
Divide the batter between the cases and bake for 17-20 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the middles comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 15 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the tahini buttercream. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat, stirring continuously for 10 mins. It will froth up vigorously, and you should start to see light brown solids form at the bottom. Pour into a heatproof bowl.
Leave the butter to cool slightly, then transfer to the fridge, stirring occasionally, until it's a spreadable consistency, about 30 mins. Transfer to a stand mixer, add the tahini and beat until combined. Add the vanilla bean paste along with a pinch of salt, and mix again. Mix in the icing sugar, a little at a time, beating well between each addition to fully incorporate. Beat again on high for 7-10 mins until smooth. Chill until needed.
When the cakes have cooled, carefully remove the centres using a sharp knife or corer, reserving the cut-out pieces. Mix a pinch of salt into the caramel, then spoon (or pipe) this into the gaps and cover using the cut-out pieces.
Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe the frosting over the cupcakes in swirls. Or, spread over the cupcakes using a palette knife. Will keep in an airtight container for up to two days.