Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prep three 8 x 2 inch round cake pans by spritzing with vegetable oil and lining with parchment paper circles.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
PINK PEPPERMINT BUTTERCREAM:
Cover the bowl of your stand mixer with the ingredients inside with a damp tea towel. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, icing sugar and peppermint extract until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Remove and reserve an 1/8 cup of buttercream to tint green for piped leaves. Tint the rest of the buttercream with the pink gel colour – beat the colour into the buttercream until shade achieved, about twenty seconds.
To build the cake:
Frost and layer your cakes. Add a small dollop of buttercream to a cake board or cake plate. Place the first cake layer on top, pressing gently to adhere. Using an offset spatula, apply a generous layer of buttercream to the layer. Place the second layer on top of the first. Add another layer of buttercream. Finally, place the third layer on top and press gently to adhere. Frost the entire exterior of the cake, using a cake bench scraper or offset set spatula to smooth.
Fill a large 18 inch piping bag with a large multi-opening grass tip, such as Wilton #234, with the remainder of the pink peppermint buttercream.
Begin piping lines of “fur” on the outside of the cake. Hold piping bag at a 90 degree angle against the cake and squeeze piping bag and pull away, creating a short “spurt” of fur. Cover the entire cake with fur. Practice the piping method first on a plate or piece of parchment paper, then move to the cake once you feel comfortable.
Make the fondant pieces: using commercial store-bought fondant, with clean and completely dry hands, mold the antler pieces and the triangular ears. Place wooden skewers cut to size into the bottoms of the antlers and ears and set aside to firm up.
Make the face – roll fondant to ¼ inch thick, then using a circular cookie cutter or glass, punch out a circle shape and gently coax it into an oval shape using your fingers. Set aside. Using black fondant, make a nose and a smiley face. Make the eyes by rolling a 1 inch piece into a ball, flattening it gently and cutting off the bottom to curve it.
Use a very tiny amount of water to stick the black nose and smile to the white face piece. Let dry.
Apply the fondant to the cake! Decide what the front of your cake will be. Then, gently press the face piece and eyes into the buttercream to create the face. Place the ears and antlers into the top. Pipe fur around the ears.
Optional: add drop stars, sprinkles and piped leaves! Add a little remaining pink buttercream into a small bowl and add a few more drops of pink gel colour to darken. Place into a piping bag fitted with an open star tip.
Colour the reserved buttercream with a little green gel colour for leaves. Place the green buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a leaf piping tip.
Pipe drop stars and leaves along the antlers and ears, adding a few sprinkles here and there for colour and festive sparkle!