Pit the dates and chop them up roughly. Put into a saucepan and add water. Bring to a boil then remove saucepan from the heat and add in bicarbonate of soda. Stir well to mix and leave aside to cool.
Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the essence and continue to beat until well combined.
Sift in flour and fold in gently with a metal spoon. Stir in the date mixture and stir well until the ingredients are just combined (take care not to over-beat).
Line the base of an 18cm round cake tin with greased baking paper. Lightly grease the sides of the tin as well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 4550 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Leave the pudding in the tin for 1015 minutes before turning out. Cut into 810 slices.
To make the sauce: Put cream, sugar and butter into a small saucepan. Stir with a metal spoon until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, then bring to a gentle boil for 12 minutes. Add the brandy; mix. Pour the sauce over individual pudding slices and serve.