Moist, sweet, moreish and very straightforward to make, this is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. It can be prepared entirely in advance and will keep very well once cooked, lasting five or six days in an airtight box in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer. Before serving, just warm it up in a low oven for about 15 minutes covered (defrost first if it has been frozen).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour the sides of an 8-inch springform pan or an 8 by 8-inch square cake pan and line the base with parchment or greaseproof paper.
Place the chopped dates and tea in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes to soften the dates, and then remove from the heat, and set aside.
In a large bowl or an electric food mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar, and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, and then beat in the mixed spice and vanilla extract. Fold in the date mixture. Sift in the flour, and bicarbonate of soda, and gently fold in until combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and bake until the top is just firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Let the cake stand in the pan for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a serving plate. While the cake is cooking, make the Toffee Sauce.
To serve: Cut the cake into slices, and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and a very generous drizzle of warm toffee sauce over the top!
In a saucepan set over a high heat, mix together the butter, sugar, syrup, cream, and vanilla extract. Bring the mixture to a boil for approximately 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until it has thickened. Serve warm.
This can also be served with the Boozy Toffee Sauce, recipe follows, instead of the regular toffee sauce. Boozy Toffee Sauce 1 stick butter 8 ounces soft light brown sugar or half brown and half caster sugar (superfine) 1 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup brandy 1/4 cup sweet sherry In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, and cream, and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Boil for 4 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 1 minute, before stirring in the brandy and sherry. Makes 1 3/4 cups