Sticky Toffee Pudding

20-22 dates, pitted and chopped, about 1 1/4 cups
3/4 cup brewed black tea
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the sauce:
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons heave cream

1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl, combine chopped dates and hot brewed tea, vanilla extract and baking soda and set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until mixture is pale and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Slowly add flour mixture and mix to incorporate.  Fold in date mixture, including the tea.

Pour batter into a lightly buttered 8 inch square baking pan and bake until cake is set and dark golden, about 35 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the sauce.  Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently over a low flame until all the sugar has dissolved and the caramel darkens, 5-8 minutes.

Once the cake has baked, use a fork to poke holes all over the surface.  Pour half the caramel sauce over the cake and let it absorb the sauce. 

To serve, preheat the broiler and warm the remaining caramel sauce.  Place cake under the broiler for 30 seconds to further caramelize the sauce (you can leave the oven door open and keep an eye on the cake, the sauce can burn quickly!).  Top each piece with some additional caramel sauce, whipped cream and chopped pecans if desired.