1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment. Grease and flour; tap out excess. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
2. Combine almonds and granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground. In a mixing bowl, beat together almond mixture and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and extract, scraping down sides of bowl. Stir in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in three parts, starting and ending with flour.
3. Divide batter among pans and bake until cake springs back when touched in the center, about 25 min. Cool 15 min. Turn cakes out of pans and cool completely.For frosting::
4. Melt together 1/2 cup butter, cocoa and milk and stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Beat remaining butter and vanilla together, then add cocoa mixture. Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, blending with each addition, until frosting is smooth and creamy.
5. If necessary, trim domed tops from cakes. Set one cake on serving plate and spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Repeat with second cake and top with third cake. Frost entire cake with a generous layer of icing. Decorate with sliced almonds, forming flowers by using chocolate candies for the centers. Makes 14 servings.