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German chocolate cake—named after Sam German, not Germany—is chocolate layer cake with a rich coconut and pecan filling and topping. Photo © HD Connelly | Fotolia.




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June 2008
Last Updated September 2013

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cookies, Cakes & Pastry

All Kinds Of Cake: A Great Cake Glossary

Page 4: Terms G To K


There are thousands of different types of cakes in the world today; each culture has its specialties, most of which never reach our shores. Here, we present some of the more popular types one is likely to encounter—or at least hear about—in the U.S. If your favorite isn’t represented, tell us about it. After you’ve checked out the cakes, take a look at our other food glossaries—an easy way to get up to speed on more than fifty different food categories. Most related to this Cake Glossary are our Chocolate Glossary, Custard Glossary, Dessert Sauce Glossary, Ice Cream & Frozen Desserts Glossary and Sugar Glossary.

Click on a letter to go to the appropriate glossary section.

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The definition of ganache is both short—a mixture of chocolate and cream—and lengthy. In the cake world, ganache refers to a very rich, thick, velvety icing made with melted chocolate and heavy cream. It is semi-firm and has a nice sheen. When it is beaten with butter as a filling and frosting for cakes and pastries, it is known as ganache beurre or ganache soufflé. In its heated, liquid state, it can be poured over cakes and pastries as a glaze. Average chocolate makes average ganache, great chocolate makes great ganache. Also see the definition for ganache in the chocolate glossary.


A galette is an open-face pie or tart (depending on the tart), although some classify it as a cake. It is flat, with a flaky, turned-up crust that creates a bowl around the fruit inside (see photo at right of a blackberry galette).


See Epiphany cake.


Gâteau is the French word for cake. It is generally a more delicate and complex confection than an American layer cake, with a génoise base and a cream or buttercream filling. It can be light or rich, rectangular or round, and often has fresh decoration such as fruit or whipped cream that makes it perishable. Gâteau can also be very elaborately decorated with spun sugar and chocolate.


Galette from, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.


This French classic has a base of puff pastry and a circle of pâte à choux (cream puffs), dipped in caramelized sugar, around the rim. The base is traditionally filled with crème chiboust (a lighter crème Pâtissière) and topped with crème chantilly (whipped cream, often using a special St.-Honoré piping tip, which is notched with a deep “V” to create  a classic peaked ridge style of piping (see photo). Some pastry chefs add a dome of spun sugar. The cake is attributed to Chiboust, a Parisian pastry chef, who named it in 1846 after the Saint-Honoré district where his patisserie was located. Saint-Honoré or Honoratus (d. 600 C.E.) was bishop of Amiens  in northern France, and is the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs.

A classic gâteau Saint-Honoré: Centres Sociocultures - Bar Le Duc.

In 1202, a baker named Renold Theriens or Renaud Cherins donated land to the city of Paris to build a chapel in honor of the saint. The chapel became one of the richest in Paris, and gave its name to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In 1400, the bakers of Paris established their guild in the church of Saint Honoratus, celebrating his feast on May 16.


Génoise is a type of sponge cake made with butter, so-called because it was invented in the Italian city of Genoa. It is used to make round cakes, square cakes and jelly rolls. A light mixture of whipped eggs and sugar, with flour and butter folded, it bakes into a firm texture that allows it to be cut into thin layer that are the base for most French gâteaux. Citrus juice and zest, cocoa powder, nuts and other flavors can be added to the batter; the baked sponge can be layered with any number of flavored buttercreams, whipped creams, liqueur- or other flavored syrups (coffee, rose, orange water), sprinkled with toasted nuts, praline and fruit, topped with sugar icing, whipped cream or ganache—not to mention elaborately decorated with buttercream flowers, glazed fruit, marzipan, spun sugar and buttercream. The possibilities are truly endless.

Génoise layers. Photo by Exeair | Wikimedia.


Génoise is baked or cut into thin layers (photo at left), rectangular or round, which are then layered with filling—buttercream, mousse, whipped cream, etc.—and frosted to create a beautiful cake. Photo courtesy


A chocolate layer cake with a rich coconut pecan filling and a chocolate frosting, topped with more coconut. German chocolate cake does not come from Germany or from German immigrants. German chocolate is a milder, sweeter baking chocolate (milk chocolate would not be invented until 1876, by Daniel Peter in Vevey, Switzerland). According to Kraft Foods, which now owns Walter Baker & Company, German chocolate cake was created in 1852 by Sam German, an Englishman who worked in the U.S. for Walter Baker & Company. Originally called Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, the apostrophe-s was later dropped, adding to the confusion.

  German Chocolate Cake
This German Chocolate Cake can be ordered from, one of New York City’s top bakeries.

The popular recipe for German Chocolate Cake was submitted to a Dallas newspaper almost 100 years later, in 1957, by a Texas housewife who may or may not have invented it. In light of the resulting demand for German chocolate, General Foods (since merged with Kraft) sent the recipe to newspapers nationwide, and the cake became a national hit. Numerous recipes can be found that are called “German Chocolate Cake” but contain none of the differentiating ingredients (German chocolate, coconut, pecans).



A southern tradition, a separate wedding cake was baked called the “groom’s cake,” to be sliced and boxed for the unmarried women attending the wedding. The cake would taken home and placed under her pillow, with hopes of dreaming of one’s future husband. (The “cake under the pillow” to engender dreams is a continuation of an old European tradition, but there was no separate groom’s cake.) Today, the groom’s cake reflects his tastes in cake, and a design that reflects his interests (chessboards, cowboy boots, sports themes). It tends to be a much smaller cake than the wedding cake, often just two large layers, and often chocolate.

You’ve got to love this groom’s cake, made by


An apple-pecan torte that is a famous dessert of Charleston, South Carolina. The recipe was adapted from an apple pudding from the Mississippi delta Ozarks and served at Charleston’s Low Country-cuisine Huguenot Tavern in the 1940s. The cake is traditionally served with whipped cream and garnished with apple slices, pecan halves and fresh mint.

  Huguenot Torte
Huguenot torte. Photo of courtesy of American Egg Board, which offers a recipe for the torte.


Another southern tradition, the recipe was first submitted by a reader to Southern Living magazine and published in the February 1978 issue. There was no explanation of the name, but cites a 1985 article in the Arkansas Gazette that says the cake also was called Cake That Doesn’t Last, Cake That Won’t Last, Granny’s Best Cake and Never Ending Cake. The batter includes bananas, crushed pineapple and pecans or walnuts, and the cake is filled and frosted with cream cheese frosting and typically topped with more chopped nuts. Thinks banana nut cake with pineapple and cinnamon.

  Hummingbird Cake
Hummingbird Cake is made with light brown muscovado sugar. Get this recipe is from Billington’s.


An ice box cake requires no baking. It is composed of cookies or lady fingers and whipped cream or pudding (some recipes used Jell-O), and set in the refrigerator. Chocolate and lemon are popular flavors. These cakes evolved in the early 1900s and became popular in the 1920s, when Nabisco published a recipe for its Famous Chocolate Refrigerator Roll on the box. As you can see in the photo, whipped cream and chocolate wafers are stacked into what is called a zebra cake. The whipped cream softens the cookies and makes the “cake” easy to slice.


Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Refrigerator Roll. Get the recipe.


See frosting.



An Italian cream cake is a moist white layer cake with cream cheese frosting, topped with coconut and pecans.



Italian meringue is a stable soft meringue that is made with sugar syrup instead of granulated sugar. It is used to frost cakes and pastries, and added to buttercream to make mousseline, a lighter frosting.

  Italian Cream Cake
This mouth-watering Italian cream cake is available from Photo © Littons Direct To You.


Jam is a popular cake filling. Almost any flavor can be used; common flavors include

apricot, blackberry, black and red cherry, black currant, orange, peach, pineapple, raspberry and strawberry.



A sponge role or roulade filled with jelly. See roulade.

  Sponge Roll

Jelly roll. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.  See the recipe.


The king cake is a Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans, made only during this time of year—and people all over the country purchase them by mail order. It is a Danish ring (some are elaborately braided) or cinnamon bread. Some are covered in bright sanding sugars that represent the Mardi Gras colors: green (faith), gold (power) and purple (justice). Others are filled with candied or glazed fruits; some wear gold paper crowns. The custom was brought to New Orleans in the late 1870s by French settlers, in whose homeland the cakes had been used to celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, or King’s Day. More recently, a small plastic baby gets baked into some cakes; the person who gets the piece with the baby is named king or queen—and must host the following year’s party.

  King Cake
King Cake from Gambino’s Bakery in New Orleans,



The kugelhopf, a Viennese specialty, is a sweet yeast-bread similar to brioche and panettone. The traditional version usually contains yeast, raisins or currants and is topped by a snowy layer of powdered sugar. It was a favorite of the Austrian princess Marie Antoinette. Over the years, denser cakes were baked in the same fluted molds. The original molds were earthenware; later molds were made of glass or metal. The name kugelhopf derives from the German word Kugel, meaning round or ball (“Kugelkopf,” with a “k,” means “spherical head”), although the actual kugelhopf somewhat resembles a pleated hat like a turban or toque.

The Kugelhopf is the ancestor of the more famous Bundt cake. Photo courtesy

Kugelhopf is also popular in the Alsace region of France, where it is made with raisins and lemon peel and has a glaze topped with sliced almonds. See the history of the bundt pan.


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