The licorice tree is best made a day or so ahead so it can dry slightly, which will make it sturdier. It's really meant to be a visual treat, but if kids want to sample, remove skewer and toothpick first.
Rectangular or 9-inch-square cake, cooled and chocolate-iced
10-inch wooden skewer
2 black ponytail holders
13 black licorice twists
Shredded Wheat cereal, finely crumbled
Orange and black sprinkles
5 oval-shaped cookies
4 Twix candy bars
6 pretzel sticks
How to Make It
Split one blunt end of each piece of licorice to make a "V" shape about 2/ inches long. Diagonally snip both ends of the "V" to taper, so they look like the thinning branches of a tree.
Stand 11 pieces of licorice together, with blunt ends at the bottom. Hide the skewer, sharp end up, in the center of the bunch. Wrap tightly with a ponytail holder, 1 inch from the bottom.
Twist the rest of the bunch to create a twisted trunk. Wrap the other ponytail holder about halfway up the trunk. Spread out the branches at the top.
Cut one piece of licorice in half; slide it over sharp skewer tip to cover.
Make 3 extra branches using the remaining licorice piece: Cut the piece into thirds and slide a toothpick partway into each section; split and taper ends. Insert the toothpick ends into the trunk of the tree.
Insert the end of the skewer into the cake, pressing the tree trunk down gently so that the bottom ends of the licorice spread out slightly to look like the wider base and roots of a tree.
Decorate sides of cake with sprinkles. Scatter cereal around the perimeter.
Then create a scene on top of the cake: Oval-shaped cookies can become gravestones (heap black sprinkles at their bases to look like fresh dirt); candy bars and pretzel sticks can turn into a fence (use a little frosting to keep pretzel sticks in place). Decorate the tree branches with fruit snacks. Place gummy worms on top of the cake.
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