1.Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease 14cm x 21cm loaf pan.
2.Combine dates and the water in small heatproof bowl. Stir in soda; stand 5 minutes. Stir in maple syrup.
3.Meanwhile, beat butter and sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined between additions (mixture will separate at this stage, but will come together later). Add butter mixture to date mixture; stir in sifted flours, in two batches.
4.Spread mixture into pan; bake about 50 minutes. Stand loaf in pan 10 minutes; turn, top-side up, onto wire rack to cool.
5.Meanwhile, whisk ingredients for maple butter in small bowl until combined. Serve loaf warm or cold with maple butter.
Just as you do when making a traditional sticky date pudding, soften the dates by standing them for several minutes in bicarbonate of soda dissolved in boiling water. For the most flavourful results, always use pure maple syrup rather than maple-flavoured syrup when making this recipe.