Tarts, Tortes, and Tiers

Pet Peeves
I have a little bit of a pet peeve of when the wrong word is used in a sentence. It can be when someone is talking about anything, but the one thing that bothers me the most is when someone uses bakery terminology incorrectly. Don’t get me wrong, its not something that makes me mad by any means but it can get confusing when you are trying to work with a client.

It could be a problem…
As a pastry chef, things can quickly go wrong if you misunderstand the difference between a tart and a torte when taking an order. I try to always explain everything in great detail with all my guests just to make sure we are all on the same page; but things don’t always go that way.

So instead of ranting some more I thought I would explain things a bit better for anyone out there that may have these definitions wrong, or if you have experienced the same problem!


To put it simply, a torte is just a cake. A torte is a cake that is sliced thinly and layered with some type of filling, then covered and decorated beautifully. There are so many different types of tortes, from the classical to just your regular birthday cake. A torte has to have 3 or more layers to be considered a torte versus just a cake, and can have any type of fillings or even different types of layers as well!

A tart is a dessert that is made with a pastry crust and contains some kind of filling. This can mean so many different things, most people consider a tart a pie, but they are basically the same thing. Above is a pretty classic fruit tart, yum!

Layers, when talking about a torte, are the cake that is thinly sliced. This doesn’t necessarily need to be cake, it could be a cookies, it could be japonaise, but it is typically flour based. A filling can be considered a layer, but typically is not �called a layer but a filling.

A tier is the whole cake or torte that is stacked several high to make a tiered cake, like a wedding cake. This is where the confusion comes when a guest will say “I want my cake to be 5 layers high”, you can see how this can cause a problem.

I know from asking other fellow pastry chefs that I am not the only one that this bothers, or that this confusion has happened with other customers. If you are like me, maybe you can use this to inform your guests. If you felt newly informed from reading this, pass it onto your friends and impress your baker the next time you see him or her!

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