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When tortes are multilayerd and fancifully decorated they are closer to gateaux EXCEPT for the fact they can last quite nicely for several days.
Cake & gateau: definitions & examples "Cakes and gateaux.
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.
Cakes can last much longer, some even improving with age (fruit cake).
Torte is the German word for cake, with similar properties.
Although both terms can be used for savoury preparations (meat cakes or vegetable gateaux) their main use is for sweet baked goods.
The word 'gateau' is derived from the Old French wastel, meaning 'food'.They are variously called fouaces, fouaches, fouees or fouyasses, according to the district...Among the many pastries which were in high favor from the 12th to the 15th centuries in Paris and other cities were: echaudes, of which two variants, the falgeols and the gobets, were especially prized by the people of Paris; and darioles, small tartlets covered with narrow strips of pastry...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.138) "The word 'gateau' crossed the Channel to England in the early 19th century...
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.