1. Pour 150ml (¼ pint) boiling water over the dates, tea bag and bicarbonate of soda and set aside to soak for 10
Remove the teabag and discard. Add the vanilla extract and
mash the mixture with a fork.
2. Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) tin or ceramic dish and line the base with nonstick baking paper.
Alternatively, use six 200ml (7fl oz) pudding tins or ramekins to make individual puddings – butter and lightly flour them before lining the bases with circles of nonstick baking paper.
3. Beat the butter with both the muscovado and brown sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs, followed by the milk and the date mix, beating well each time (the mixture may split, but will come together when you add the flour). Sieve in the flour and fold. Pour into the dish or tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35 minutes, until golden,
springy and risen.
4. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Gently heat the cream, sugar and butter in a pan set over a low heat, stirring often until smooth. Spoon half the sauce over the cooked sponge as soon as it is removed from the oven, keeping the remaining sauce warm. Let the sponge sit for 10 minutes then cut into 8. Serve warm, with the extra sauce and some crème fraîche or ice cream, if you like.