In a medium saucepan bring the water and dates to the boil. Mix in the bicarb soda then let cool.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour. Add the date mixture and the vanilla essence, then mix well with an electric hand mixer. Pour into a large rectangular ceramic baking dish, bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes.
Sauce: Add the caster sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Mix until well combined and smooth then slowly bring to the boil. Remove from the heat when the sauce has the texture and colour you desire.
To Serve: Cut and plate the cooked pudding then pour the sauce over the pudding. Serve as is, or with ice cream.