1.Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease and line a 20cm (base diameter) round cake pan with baking paper. Place dates in a small saucepan with 1 cup water; bring to the boil. Stir in soda. Remove from heat; stand for 10 minutes.
2.Using an electric mixer, beat butter, caster sugar and 1 teaspoon of essence in a medium bowl until pale and creamy. Beat in eggs, one by one, until combined. Add flour and date mixture, beating until combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan; Smooth surface.
3.Bake pudding for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted at centre comes out clean. Stand pudding in pan for 5 minutes; turn out onto a large serving plate.
4.Combine extra butter, brown sugar, cream and remaining essence in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until well combined and smooth. Cut pudding into wedges. Drizzle with caramel sauce. Serve pudding with ice-cream.