If you like a sponge pudding you will love this. An old-school classic and top pudding.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Grease a 28x18x2.5 cm/11x7x 1in baking tin with extra butter.
- Chop the dates. Tip them into a pan with the water. Put the pan onto very low heat. Simmer the two for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat.
- Add the bicarbonate of soda to the pan. Set the mix aside.
- Tip the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon to soften it up. Now cream the two together vigorously using a wooden spoon or electric beater for 3 minutes or more. You want a light, white creamy sponge mix and this process introduces the air.
- Sift the flour and have it at hand in case you need it when you introduce the egg to the butter/sugar.
- Beat the eggs together well. Drip the egg a very little at a time into the creamy butter/sugar, beating constantly as you go. Too fast and too much and you risk the mix curdling. Beat furiously on, adding a big pinch of your flour to the mix, if this should happen.
- When the egg is in, sift in the flour then add the date mix and vanilla extract. Stir everything together with a large metal spoon using large light scooping movements to retain the air
- Spoon the mix evenly into the tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until the sponge has risen and is springy when you touch the centre. Remove and cut into squares. Keep warm.
- Sauce: melt the butter, syrup, sugar in a small pan over low heat. Boil for 1 minute. Add the cream. Pour over the pudding immediately.
- Serve in warm bowls with the sauce and a touch of vanilla ice-cream if you like.