Pour boiling water over dates and baking soda and let stand while mixing batter.
Cream shortening until fluffy, then add sugar gradually. Add eggs and beat well. Add sifted flour and salt, alternating with date mixture. Mix well. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg may be added to flour mixture. Add vanilla and blend.
Bake in 350 oven for 45 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched.