Preheat the oven to 180°C gas mark 4.
Grease eight 200ml mini pudding basins or ramekin dishes and line each base with a small circle of greaseproof paper (this is time consuming but vital if you want to turn the puddings out intact!).
Put the dates along with the boiling water and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and put to one side.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs a little at a time, mixing well between each addition. Fold in the flour, followed by the dates and their soaking liquid. Scrape the seeds from the split vanilla pod into the bowl and mix well. You will have a wet mixture but don’t be worried as this is how it’s meant to be.
Divide this mixture between the moulds, taking care not to fill them more than two-thirds full. Place the moulds or ramekin dishes on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until a metal skewer comes out clean when tested.
While the puddings are cooking, make the sauce. Put the butter and sugar in to a pan and melt, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Then add the cream.
When the puddings are cooked, turn them out and pour over the sauce top off with walnuts and gold leaf.
Note: these puddings can be frozen in their moulds, covered with cling film, after they are cooked and cooled. Defrost, then heat for about 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C gas mark 4.
The sauce can be made when you are ready to serve them.
Recipe courtesy of Lisa Faulkner