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Butter or oil a 30 x 25cm baking tin, at least 5cm deep, and line with baking parchment.
Put the dates in a heatproof bowl. In a small pan, bring the rum and 300ml water to the boil, then pour over the dates. Stir, then cover and leave to soak for 20 mins. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
Put the suet and sugar in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mixed spice, then sift in the flour and bicarb, folding these into the mixture until nearly combined. Add the dates with their liquor and mix to combine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging.
Meanwhile, to make the caramel, tip the coconut milk into a heavy-based non-stick saucepan and whisk until smooth. Bring to the boil over a high heat and boil rapidly, stirring occasionally, for about 40 mins until reduced and starting to thicken. Sprinkle in the sugar and whisk well. (Reheat before serving if necessary.)
Once the pudding is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 mins. Cut into squares and serve warm, topped with the hot coconut caramel and sprinkled with toasted coconut flakes.