To make the butterscotch sauce, bring the sugar and ¾ cup (7fl oz) (200ml) of water to the boil in a heavy-based pan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until reduced to a rich golden caramel.
Add the cream to the caramel with the butter, stirring until combined and then simmer gently for another 5 minutes until reduced. Leave to cool for about 10-15 minutes until thickened a little further.
This is ready to serve warm or transfer to a bowl and leave to cool completely, then cover with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until needed. This can also be put in a squeezy bottle. Use warm or cold as desired.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C), Gas mark 4. Melt 4 tbsp (2oz) (50g) of the butter in a small pan or in the microwave and use to brush the insides of 8 x 7fl oz (200ml) small pudding bowls or custard cups, then lightly dust with a little flour, shaking out any excess. Set aside until needed.
Place the dates in a pan with 1 1/3 cups (½ pint) (300ml) of water and then bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes until the dates are soft. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the date mixture, which will cause it to foam up and then set aside to cool a little.
Meanwhile, cream the brown sugar, vanilla seeds and butter together with a hand-held electric mixer in a bowl for about 10 minutes until light and fluffy. Place the date mixture in a food processor and blend for 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl. Add one tablespoon of the flour to the butter and sugar mixture. Then slowly add the eggs and beat well to combine. Add the blended date mixture with the remaining flour and the vanilla extract until you have a smooth dropping consistency.
Pour the pudding batter into the prepared pudding bowls and arrange on a baking sheet, then bake for 35-40 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.
To serve, leave the puddings to settle for a minute or two before turning out onto warmed plates. Spoon over the warm butterscotch sauce and add a scoop of ice cream to each one.