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Gateau is generally used for fancy, but light or rich, often with fresh decoration, such as fresh fruit or whipped cream.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.Most were probably rather sickly, made from cheap sponge filled with 'buttercream'..coated with fondant icing. French gateau are richer than the products of British bakers. These products naturally relaxed into rounded shapes.
In France, Antonin Careme [1784-1833] is considered THE premier historic chef of the modern pastry/cake world.
Cakes can last much longer, some even improving with age (fruit cake).
Torte is the German word for cake, with similar properties.
Thus Artois had gateau razis, and Bournonnais the ancient tartes de fromage broye, de creme et de moyeau d'oeulz.
Hearth cakes are still made in Normandy, Picardy, Poitou and in some provinces in the south of France.
Casse-museau is a hard dry pastry still made today'...petits choux and gateaux feuilletes are mentioned in a charter by Robert, Bishop of Amiens in 1311." ---Larousse Gastronomique, completely revised and updated [Clarkson Potter: New York] 2001 (p. The original dividing line between cake and bread was fairly thin: Roman times eggs and butter were often added to basic bread dough to give a consistency we would recognize as cakelike, and this was frequently sweetened with honey.