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I recently noticed that the French use "cake" to mean fruit cake (Cassell's dictionary and others). But I've also seen it used in cake au thon. I don't believe that gâteau and cake are synonymous, but I can't seem to find a clear distinction.

Appreciative of your thoughts,


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I am not familiar with this but it seems clear that "le cake au thon" is a savoury recipe.

So clearly "un cake" does not correspond exactly to "a cake" in English which is  ,as far as I know always a sweet kind of food.(it can also  apply to  minerals such as uranium )


"cake" is used for all recipes with eggs, flour, yeast, butter ans other foods ...mixed and cooked in a special mould called "moule à cake".

cakes are called "cakes" where foods are fruits, chocolate, banana and all sweet foods.

cakes are called "cakes salés" where foods are tuna, salmon, ....and all salted foods.

yesterday, I did a cake with red, green and yellow peppers and chorizo. it is hummmmmm delicious.


Cake salé chorizo et 3 poivrons

200 gr de farine

10 cl d'huile

1 cuillère à soupe de moutarde

1 sachet de levure chimique

4 oeufs

1 chorizo

3 poivrons (1 rouge, 1 jaune, 1 vert)

100 gr de gruyère (ou de féta ou autre fromage)

Mélanger les oeufs, la moutarde, l'huile, sel et poivre

Ajouter la farine, la levure, le fromage

Couper le chorizo en dés et 1/4 de chaque poivron en dés et ajouter à la préparation.

Cuire au four th 180°C pendant 15 minutes et th 150°C pendant 15 minutes.

On vérifie avec la lame du couteau que c'est cuit.

it's not written in the recipe, but, the mould is a special mould. it's a reason why it's called "cake"

Delightful, Chantal.  As I understand it, a true "moule à cake" must be rectangular.  D'accord?  Does this mean that the same ingredients cooked in a round mould would be un gâteau?  In your second sentence, did you mean to say that "cakes are called 'gâteaux' where foods are fruits,…"?

Thank you.

Yes, a really "moule à cake"  is rectangular.

When foods are fruits, chocolate and all sugar foods, cakes are generally called "cakes" when they have these special rectangular form and with this recipe (eggs, flour, yeast, butter just mixed and the special cake texture after cooking). They could be called "gâteau" too but they are generally called cake.  So if a rectangular cake has another texture (with eggs white in snow), it could be called "gâteau", if there is  some more foods like almonds powder or special recipes like 4/4 they are called "gâteau", if they are cooked in a round mould, they are generally called "gâteaux" but could be called "cake" if the recipe is a cake recipe.

For salted foods, "cake" is used when recipe is with just mixed foods and the mould is generally rectangular,  "gateaux" could be used with round mould ("gâteau au fromage blanc",...)  There are a lot of words for salted food preparations = tartes, fondant, ...

This is the usual practice but this rules are not strict.

Everybody has a round mould and a rectangular mould to cook.  So with the cake recipe, we generaly use the "moule à cake".  For a 4/4 I used the round mould. For "une génoise" I use "moule à génoise" ....

In your second sentence, did you mean to say that "cakes are called 'gâteaux' where foods are fruits,…"?

No I wanted to say that when we speak about a cake and this cake is with sugar foods, we just say "cake", while when we speak about a cake with salted foods we called it "cake"  and often more  "cake salé".

That's really helpful, Chantal.  Merci bien !

Thank you, George.  Do you think "au gâteau au thon/crabe" would be incorrect?


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