Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease six 5-ounce ramekins or individual savarin pans (ring-shaped pans) and place then in a roasting pan with sides higher than the baking dishes.
Place the dates in a bowl and pour the hot tea over top. Let the mixture sit a few minutes, then stir in the vanilla and baking soda.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar until blended, then add the eggs one at a time and beating well after each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder over the butter mixture and stir to blend. Add the still-warm date mixture and stir until evenly combined. Divide this evenly between the prepared dishes.
Pour boiling water around the dishes so that it comes half way up, and cover the entire pan with foil. Bake the pudding s for about 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when gently pressed. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan, let them cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto plates and serve warm with Toffee Sauce (recipe follows).
The cakes can be prepared and baked in advance, stored chilled and then microwaved for just 10-15 seconds to re-warm.
For the sauce, melt the butter and brown sugar in a sauté pan over medium high heat until bubbling. Stir in the whipping cream, add the raisins and return to a simmer. Add the brandy (taking care in case it ignites). Spoon this over the steamed puddings and serve warm.