Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Butter the insides of a 1.5 liter (8 1/2-inch diameter) souffle dish.
To make the caramel, bring the cream, sugar and molasses to a boil, stirring to melt the sugar. Reduce heat to medium low, stirring constantly until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour half the sauce into the prepared pan and set in the freezer to cool while you make the pudding. Reserve remaining sauce.
To make the pudding, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Bring the dates and water to a boil, add the baking soda (it will bubble up) and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar, slowly add the eggs and vanilla. (Mixture may look curdled). Add half the flour mixture followed by the date mixture and then the remaining flour mixture just until blended. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 to 55 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached.
(Pudding may be sliced and eaten with remaining sauce at this point).
Make the pudding up to one day in advance.Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.To reheat, poke holes in the surface and pour half the remaining sauce over pudding. Cover with foil and heat at 300 F for about 25 minutes, until heated through. Serve with the remaining sauce, heated and spooned over with ice cream or whipped cream, if you like.