Preheat oven to 180 °C.
Divide dates into two equal portions and place in separate bowls.
Add bicarbonate of soda to one bowl and pour boiling water over.
Mix and leave to cool.
Cream butter and sugar together and beat eggs thoroughly.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt and fold into creamed mixture.
Add nuts and dry portion of dates, mixing well to blend.
Stir in bicarbonate of soda and date mixture and mix thoroughly.
Place in a large baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, mix together the cream and maple syrup, adding the vanilla pod.
Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the vanilla pod, scrape the seeds into the sauce and discard the pod.
Pour sauce over pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Serve hot with whipped cream.
If you use vanilla essence, add it at the end of cooking time.