Want your holiday dinner to end on a sweet note? Finish it off with this creative Christmas tree complete with candy ornaments, an icing garland, and (of course) presents!
Prepare the cake mix according to the package directions using an electric mixer (this yields a firmer cake), then bake it in a 9- by 13-inch pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Let the cake cool completely.
Place the cake on a cutting board and use a long, sharp knife (parents only) to shave off the rounded top. Carefully flip over the cake and cut it into 7 squares, as shown, setting the extra aside. Cut the bottom half off each of the 2 smallest squares and set them aside with the other leftover cake pieces.
Stack the cake squares from largest to smallest on a serving platter, setting each one at a 45-degree angle to the one below it. Trim the skewer so that it's just slightly shorter than the cake, then stick it down through the stack to help keep the squares together.
To prepare the glaze, stir together the confectioners' sugar, water, and extract in a medium bowl until smooth (it should be about the consistency of honey). Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture, then tint the remaining glaze with the green food coloring until it reaches a shade you like. (We used about 1/8 teaspoon, or about 12 drops.)
Pour the tinted glaze over the cake from the top, using a rubber spatula or butter knife to gently spread it over the cake as needed.
To make the presents, divide the remaining icing among 2 or 3 bowls and tint each with a different shade of food coloring. Cut the extra cake pieces into small squares, then set them on a wire rack with a plate or waxed paper underneath. Pour the glaze over the squares. Let the icing set for a few minutes, then use a spatula to carefully move the presents to the base of the tree.
Decorate the tree with candy ornaments, then use the tube of decorators' icing to add a frosting garland to the tree and frosting ribbons and bows to the gifts. To serve, remove and cut the layers one at a time. Serves 18 to 20.