1.Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line base and sides of three 20cm deep round cake pans with baking paper. Baking paper should extend 5cm above sides.
2.Make three quantities of butter cake batter: Beat butter, extract and sugar in bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
3.Transfer mixtures to larger bowls; stir in sifted flour and milk, in two batches. Spread mixtures into three 20cm deep pans.
4.Bake cakes for 1 hour. Cover cakes with foil halfway through baking if over-browning.
5.Test cakes by inserting a skewer into the centre. If cooked, skewer will be clean. If there is cake mixture on the skewer, bake cake a further 10 minutes before testing again.
6.Stand cakes in pans for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on size of the cake, before turning top-side down, onto wire rack to cool.
7.Make four quantities of butter cream: Beat the butter in a small narrow bowl with an electric mixer until the butter is as white as possible.
8.Gradually beat in half the sifted icing sugar, then the milk, then the remaining sifted icing sugar.
9.Beat until the buttercream is smooth and spreadable. Keep scraping down the side of the bowl during beating.
Assembling and decorating cakes
10.Trim cakes; split cakes in half. Secure one layer of cake to cake board with a little butter cream. Top with remaining cake layers using about ⅓ cup butter cream between each layer.
11.Starting with 1 tablespoon white colouring, tint butter cream white; add more colouring if a whiter shade is required. Spread cake all over with butter cream.
12.Using tweezers and paint brush, carefully attach small pieces of gold leaf to the top edge of the cake.
13.Wrap floral tape around cake topper; push into centre of cake. Trim flowers to fit neatly on cake. Wrap stems in floral tape. Arrange flowers on cake.
This cake can be layered with flavoured butter cream: puree raspberries and swirl through the butter cream. This would marry well with a white or dark chocolate mud cake. If using a lighter cake, like a butter cake, you could add citrus peel and a little juice to the butter cream. Cheese cream frosting or ganache would also be suitable to ice the cake.