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In Victorian England cookery writers used 'gateau' initially to denote puddings such as rice baked in a mould, and moulded baked dishes of fish or meat; during the second part of the century it was also applied to highly decorated layer cakes.Judging by the amount of space given to directions for making these in bakers' manuals of the time, they were tremendously popular... The primary meaning of the word 'gateau' is now a rich and elaborate cake filled with whipped cream and fruit, nuts, or chocolate. Generally, the round cakes we know today descended from ancient bread. They were typically fashioned into round balls and baked on hearthstones, griddles, or in low, shallow pans.
Moulded cakes (and fancy ices) reached their zenith in Victorian times.The first gateau were simply flat round cakes made with flour and water, but over the centuries these were enriched with honey, eggs, spices, butter, cream and milk.From the very earliest items, a large number of French provinces have produced cakes for which they are noted.Although both terms can be used for savoury preparations (meat cakes or vegetable gateaux) their main use is for sweet baked goods.Cakes can be large or small, plain of fancy, light or rich.You will find references to him in French culinary history books.
Cake recipes, Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cook Book  What is the difference between cake, gateau and torte? It generally denotes items made with delicate ingredients which are best consumed soon after the confection is made (gateaux des roi).
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 word 'gateau' is derived from the Old French wastel, meaning 'food'.
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.
They involve thin layers of sponge, usually genoise, or meringue; some are based on choux pastry. The later are rarely dairy cream; instead creme patissiere (confectioner's custard--milk, sugar, egg yolks, and a little flour) or creme au buerre (a rich concoction of egg yolks creamed with sugar syrup and softened butter) are used. By the 17th century, cake hoops (fashioned from metal or wood) were placed on flat pans to effect the shape.
Gateau is generally used for fancy, but light or rich, often with fresh decoration, such as fresh fruit or whipped cream.