Making cake for company can seem daunting, but my quick version of a classic Black Forest cake can actually be completed in about half an hour -- and the components are perfect for making ahead and putting together when you're ready!
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a rimmed 17-by-12-inch sheet pan with baking spray and line it with parchment paper, then lightly spray the parchment with baking spray. Set aside.
Combine the cocoa powder and hot water in a large glass measuring cup and stir to combine. Stir in the cold water and set aside.
Combine the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the egg, beating until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour, baking powder and baking soda, then pour in the cocoa mixture. Beat for 2 minutes on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until completely blended with no visible streaks.
Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan, spreading evenly. Bake 10 minutes. Do not overbake.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on the countertop and invert the baked cake on top of it. Peel off the parchment on top of the cake. Spread the Cherry Kirsch Compote (minus 1/2 cup reserved for the Cherry Cream) evenly across the cake. Roll the cake into a log from the short end, place on a serving platter and set aside.
When ready to serve, pour the Microwave Dark Chocolate Ganache over the top of the cake, spreading it smoothly with an offset spatula and allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake. Serve each slice of cake with a large spoonful of the Cherry Cream on top.
Cherry Kirsch Compote:
Combine the cherries, jam, kirsch, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon and salt in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are soft and mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely; reserve 1/2 cup of the cooled compote for the Cherry Cream (recipe follows). Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
Microwave Dark Chocolate Ganache:
Place the chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl. Microwave the cream in a glass measuring cup for 1 minute. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Whisk in the instant espresso, whisking until completely smooth. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week and reheated as necessary. Makes about 2 cups.
Place the heavy cream, sour cream, sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. The cream can be refrigerated at this point in a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl for up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, gently fold the compote into the prepared whipped cream. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.