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The word gateau is the modern French descendant of Old French guastel, 'fine bread'; which is probably of Germanic origin.In its northeastern Old French dialect from wasel it as borrowed into English in the thirteenth century, where it survived until the seventeenth century." ---An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press: Oxford] 2002 (p.In France, Antonin Careme [1784-1833] is considered THE premier historic chef of the modern pastry/cake world.You will find references to him in French culinary history books.138) "The word 'gateau' crossed the Channel to England in the early 19th century...
Cakes can last much longer, some even improving with age (fruit cake).Whereas a cake may remain fresh for several days after baking or even improve with keeping, a gateau usually includes fresh decoration or ingredients that do not keep well, such as fresh fruit or whipped cream.In France, the word 'gateau' designates various patisserie items based on puff pastry, shortcrust pastry (basic pie dough), sweet pastry, pate saglee, choux pastry, Genoese and whisked sponges and meringue...The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word cake back to the 13th century. Medieval European bakers often made fruitcakes and gingerbread. According to the food historians, the precursors of modern cakes (round ones with icing) were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-17th century. The first icing were usually a boiled composition of the finest available sugar, egg whites and [sometimes] flavorings. The cake was then returned to the oven for a while.This is due to primarily to advances in technology (more reliable ovens, manufacture/availability of food molds) and ingredient availability (refined sugar). When removed the icing cooled quickly to form a hard, glossy [ice-like] covering.
Torte is the German word for cake, with similar properties.