1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C, or gas mark 4). Line a 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pan with parchment paper. Grease the pan and parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the chopped dates and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, about 3 to 5 minutes. Once the mixture has boiled, remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble and thicken. Let cool to room temperature.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Add the cooled date mixture and mix. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and star anise, and mix until just combined.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. While the cake is cooling to room temperature, prepare the sauce.
4. Combine the brown sugar, heavy cream, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and bourbon.
5. Serve each slice of cake with a generous pour of warm sauce.
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