The Essential Guide To Cake Terminology

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The Glossary

The Essential Guide To Cake Terminology

 Classic cake styles most certainly have their place on a variety of entertaining menus. The Essential Guide To Cake Terminology is designed to inform you of the basic fundamentals so you can choose a signature creation for your event. Whether you’re a novice or an advanced baker, it’s important to know what terms mean from the foundation components to the equipment & supplies necessary in order to complete tasks. Look to this valuable reference when a specialty cake is in order.

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How To Interpret The Cake Glossary Of Terms

Most everything lovely that comes out of your kitchen begins with planning & logistics. From curating the finest ingredients to making certain supplies are available to create beautiful & delicious cakes, many tasks must be taken care of before baking can even begin. Specially prepared baked goods make lovely offerings to guests when entertaining. When it comes to choosing the right cake for your celebration, it’s important to know about the ingredients, tools, equipment, recipes formulas & a few classic cake styles so that the best choice may be made in order to highlight the event. 

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It takes many components in order to create some of your favorite cake styles. Use these terms to help guide you when preparing them in your own kitchen or when speaking to a cake decorator that will handcraft a signature creation for your special celebration.

No. 1

The General Terms


 A sweet baked item that may be prepared with butter, eggs, flour, sugar, leavening, nuts, chocolate & dairy. Depending on the formulas & desired texture, a combination of these items are used to create a variety of classic cake styles. In their most basic form, cakes are typically layered & filled with frosting or buttercream.


A torte is generally prepared with high quality ingredients & contains little or no flour. Many are relatively dense & measure about 2 to 3 inches in height once ready for presentation. 


The French term for cake, a gâteau generally refers to a decadent cake consisting of layers that is typically filled with cream, fruit or a combination of both components.

Petit Four 

Petits Fours Glacé are two bite sponge cakes enrobed in warm fondant or chocolate & finished with an ornamental design element but there are many sweet items that can classified as petits fours. Small meringues, tartlets, chocolate covered fruits, candies, cookies & pâte à choux pastries are all examples of the types of confections that can be considered a petit four. However, what determines the classification is that they are small enough to be consumed in just a nibble or two.

No. 2

The Tools & Equipment

Cake Turntable

A metal round disc set over a sturdy base that may be rotated during the cake assembly & decoration process.

Bakers Rack

Sometimes referred to as speed racks or bun pans, these indispensable pieces of equipment may be loaded with half or full size sheet pans & rolled directly into ovens for baking & as vertical cooling or storage for essential bakeshop tasks. 

Wire Rack

A compact grid specifically designed to promote air circulation that helps prevent condensation from forming on baked items as they’re cooling. 

Cake Pans

Cake pans may range in size from 6 to 16-inches & may be round, square, rectangular or specially shaped. They are commonly made from aluminum or metal.

Springform Pan

A metal baking pan consisting of a flat bottom portion & removable sides held together with a clamp. They are generally used to prepare cheesecakes & tortes.

Sheet Pans

A flat pan with short sides used to bake cakes, bread & rolls.


A perforated, cone shaped piece of equipment used to strain custards & sauces for a smooth texture & consistency.

Cardboard Cake Rounds

Corrugated cardboard circles, rectangles or squares used to finish cakes & designed for transport of them.

Parchment Paper

Baking papers that have been treated to create a non-stick element most often used to line sheet pans & cake pans.

Palette Knife

Flexible metal spatulas with wooden or plastic handles used to ice cakes. Some are raised & known as offset palette knives while others are flat. The width of the metal increases with the length depending on the size of the palette knife.

Rubber Spatulas

Flexible rubber or nylon tools attached to wooden or plastic handles used to scrape bowl sides clean during mixing & blending procedures.

Pastry Brush

A nylon or natural bristle brush used to apply syrups, glazes & egg washes to items.

Candy Thermometer

A flat thermometer with a clamp that may be attached to pots to measure the temperature of sugar, sauces & various bakeshop formulas designed to gauge & signal accurate points of completion for specific desired recipes & results.

Drum Sieve

A tool used by professional bakers to sift flour, powdered sugar & nuts. It’s generally made of fine wire mesh & wooden sides & may be found in various sizes. Classic crank sifters & small household sieves may be used to complete similar tasks when baking.

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The Foundation & General Components

Simple Syrup

Generally prepared with a one to one ratio of sugar & water, these essential components are more often used to moisten genoise sponge cakes during assembly. The formulas may be enhanced with coffee, liquor, herbs, spices or other items for additional depth of flavor.


Cake fillings may range from chocolate & pastry cream bases to fruit & nut combinations. Generally, a filling is used between cake layers & a frosting or buttercream is added as a finishing component to cakes.

Buttercream, Frosting & Icing 

A soft, spreadable combination of butter & sugar with flavorings used to fill & finish cake layers. Powdered sugar may be used for quick versions or a meringue may be created by cooking granulated sugar & water to a temperature around 240 degrees then added to beaten egg whites. The latter results in a lighter, fluffier mixture. Icings may be as simple as a powdered sugar & water blend that is drizzled over baked items, particularly muffins, coffee cakes & pound cakes. When meringue powdered is added to a basic formula, the result is royal icing, a more stable mixture that may be piped & becomes stiff upon standing.

Crumb Coat

A thin layer of buttercream or frosting applied to stacked & filled cake layers designed to seal any stray crumbs so that a finishing coat of buttercream may be applied for a clean, professional cake appearance.

Cake Layers

Cake layers are unassembled, individually baked cakes used to create specific cake styles.

Cake Tiers

Cake tiers are a multitude of iced cake layers that are stacked & supported with dowels most closely associated with wedding cake assembly. They are generally assembled in graduating heights that may or may not include space between each tier depending on the specific design desired. 

No. 4

The General Design Elements


Fondant is a soft, pliable sugar based formula that may be used to cover cake tiers for a smooth appearance or it may be crafted to create cake decorations.

Gum Paste

Gum paste is commonly used to create a variety of cake decorations. It may be rolled & shaped then allowed to dry & harden.


Marzipan is a combination of sugar & finely ground almonds that may or may not be enhanced additionally with almond extract. More often times than not, marzipan is used to create fruits, flowers or other decorations to adorn cakes.

Almond Paste

Almond paste is more often times prepared using a one to one ratio formulas of finely ground almonds & sugar. It may be prepared by bakers or purchased & used in baked items for rich, distinctive flavor.

Pulled Sugar 

Pulled sugar is a process by which a sugar based solution is cooked to a specific temperature that is then used to create ornamental decorations such as flowers, ribbons & bows for cakes. The hot molten sugar may be flavored or colored depending on the desired shapes & once the design has been created, it is allowed to cool forming a crisp, brittle texture. 

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The Collection Of Cake Classics

 Opera Cake

Gâteau opéra is a French cake cut into small rectangular servings traditionally prepared by layering almond joconde, coffee syrup & coffee buttercream. A thin layer of chocolate glaze finishes the cake with the word “opera” piped over the surface. Although exact origins are unknown, the cake became popular by the French patisserie, Dalloyau in the 20th century.

Queen Of Sheba

Queen Of Sheba Cake often referred to as Gateau Reine De Saba is a classic French dessert prepared with almonds & butter. It relies on beaten egg whites to provide a bit of lift when baked. The decadent confection is named for Sheba known biblically to have brought gold, precious stones, spices & other opulent items to Jerusalem & has such a rich taste & texture, it doesn’t need to be split & filled. The cake is often finished with a simple chocolate glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar & more often times than not, it is prepared in a springform pan.


Created by Austrian, Franz Sacher for the congress of Vienna, a Sachertorte is a chocolate cake sometimes prepared with nuts & in the most strict form must include two cake layers filled with apricot jam. The cake is finished with chocolate glaze & the word “sacher” is piped over the surface in chocolate.

Dobos Torte

The Dobos Torte originated in Hungary & consists of a multi-layered sponge cake filled with chocolate buttercream & finished with a final cake layer that is topped with caramelized sugar.

Black Forest

This classic German cake consists of chocolate sponge cake layers that are brushed with kirsch syrup & filled with cherry preserves. The cake is iced with sweetened whipped cream & garnished with fresh cherries & shaved chocolate.

Gâteau Saint-Honoré

Named for Saint Honorius, the Bishop of Amiens & the French Patron of Saint of Pastry Cooks, Gâteau Saint-Honoré was created to showcase the skills every pastry chef should be well acquainted. The classic consists of a puff pastry base that is topped with a ring of pâte à choux cream puffs filled with pastry cream & dipped in caramelized sugar. The center is filled with Cream Chiboust, a delicate balance of Italian meringue blended with hot pastry cream. It should be served the day it is prepared.

Lemon Chiffon

A chiffon cake is a light, airy foam or sponge cake prepared by folding beaten egg whites into a basic cake batter. 

New York Style Cheesecake

New York Style Cheesecakes are traditionally baked in a springform pan & are typically dense, creamy in texture but firm. They are tall cakes that have a tangy flavor & may be prepared with sour cream & heavy cream.

German Chocolate

German Chocolate Cake originated in the United States & consists of chocolate cake layers prepared with a sweet chocolate sandwiched with a coconut-pecan filling that may or may not be finished with the same mixture. Often times, the cakes may be frosted with a chocolate buttercream.

Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel is an elaborately decorated cake typically prepared & served during the holidays. The design features a roulade cake style that is decorated to mimic a yule log that could be found in an enchanted forest as it is adorn with ridges over the icing surface to resemble bark & mushrooms made from crisp meringue cookies.


A basic roulade is a sponge cake prepared in a sheet pan that is spread with cream, frosting or jam & rolled to create a spiral affect once sliced.

Angel Food

Angel Food Cake is a light sponge cake prepared without fat that is baked in a tubular-shaped pan with very tall sides.

Devil’s Food

Devil’s Food Cake consists of rich chocolate cake layers that are filled & finished with chocolate frosting.


Although not technically considered a cake as it is prepared by stacking cream puffs held in place by caramelized sugar into a tall, pyramid or cone shape, in France a Croquembouche is often served at weddings.

The Tune 
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* Southern Born * Southern Bred * Tailgate Queen * Football Fanatic * Buttermilk Lipstick Culinary & Entertaining Techniques Instructor * Cooking & Baking Tutorials * Media Personality * Baking & Pastry Artist * Gardener * Runner * Retainer of Useless Pop Culture One Liners * Terrible Dancer * Even Worse Singer * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Rebecca Gordon shares over 20 years of cooking knowledge in the instructional filled original editorial content on Buttermilk Lipstick as well as the cooking class format videos that can be found on her YouTube channel through regular collaboration with numerous media outlets. Gordon draws from an extensive background in corporate publishing spanning over 13 years on both the business and editorial side focusing on women’s southern lifestyle. She is a classically trained pastry chef and draws from fine dining restaurant experience from a James Beard award winning chef as well as her southern roots upbringing to share cooking, entertaining & style content relevant to today’s modern woman.

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