Mix dates and bi-carb soda in a saucepan, pour boiling water over the top and leave to stand. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together, until light and fluffy, and pale in colour. Then add eggs, one at a time (heating well after each addition).
Gently fold in sifted flour, stir in the date mixture, and pour in a lightly greased 18cm (7 inch) square or round cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven 180c (350f) for 30-40 minutes. (Insert a tooth pick to check if done, the tooth pick, should come out clean ).
Combine sugar, cream, vanilla essence and butter in a saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring and simmer for 5 minutes (set aside till ready to serve, this needs to be reheated, just before serving).
Cut pudding into squares and place each square in the centre of a warm plate. Pour hot toffee sauce over each serving and serve with cream and or ice cream.
1 cup soft brown sugar
3/4 cup light whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla essence