Cakes, tarts, petit fours – our guide to a brief afternoon interlude

There’s always time for cake. But what makes a cake a cake? And what’s the difference to a tart? We take a closer look so you’ll be the baking expert among your friends.

A breakfast treat, a lunchtime dessert, a lazy afternoon with coffee or with a cup of cocoa in the evening – there’s always a time and a place for cake. With so many different types to try it never gets dull. Find out what the difference between cake, tart and a petit four is in our Vapiano cake guide. After all the theory, you’re bound to want to try a slice or two in practice.

Cake – tart’s creamier sister


The idea of cake comes from the Italian term “torta”, which translates as “round bread”. Before it became popular as a sweet treat, a “torta” was a savoury, filled pastry. 



The oldest cake recipe comes from Austria, where connoisseurs have been enjoying the celebrated “Linzer Cake” since the 17th century. All our modern-day cream and chocolate cakes originated in the 19th and 20th centuries – around the same time as the invention of electric hand mixers. And that’s no coincidence either. Making a cake used to take real elbow grease. Whereas Austrians can claim the oldest recipe, butter cream filling was invented by German bakers in the 19th century.




A filling of butter cream and/or cream is what makes cakes unique, especially when it comes to classic cakes that generations of grandmothers have baked. Black Forest Gateaux is one prime example. Nowadays, cakes are also made using cream cheese, yoghurt or quark – often paired with fresh fruit. The baked sponge base – or bases – is spread with filling. Lavish multi-tier wedding cakes feature elaborate frosting and fondant decorations.


Naked cakes – the latest trend

“There’s something missing here!” may be the reaction of your granny when she sees a naked cake for the first time. These new cakes have no frosting or icing on the outside at all, leaving the filling inside exposed. Fresh fruit or petals can be used to decorate the top. Regular readers will know all about naked cakes after blogger Sandra’s post about her lemon-buttermilk recipe.

Tart – more pastry than sponge


The name is taken from the similar sounding French word “tarte”.



Just like the name, the tart concept also originated in France. Bakers traditionally used a round tin with a fluted edge to bake tarts. The Swiss “Wähe” tart may taste similar but is baked on a flat baking tray and not in a tin.  



A special short crust pastry with no salt or sugar is used. A creamy or fruity filling is added to the top of the pastry, almost like a cake with a crispy base. The neutral flavoured pastry means a tart can be made with a sweet or savoury filling.



Types of tart

Smaller tarts are known as “tartelettes” or “mini tarts”. And because we love the taste of pastry, we’re featuring at least one tartelette on our Dolci menu from mid-July (LINK zur Dolci-Karte). A vanilla cream filling with strawberries on a base of chocolate is the first of our mouth-watering tartelettes. We think it’s destined for Instagram stardom. Watch this space!

Petit fours – bite-sized cakes


The literal translation of “petit four” is “small oven”. The term comes from a time when bakers used the remaining heat in their wood and coal ovens for smaller cakes. Today we use the plural – probably because it’s hard to stop at just one of these miniature treats!



Just like tarts, petit fours originated in France and date back to the 18th century. Macaroons are also classed as petit fours.




A sponge base filled with cream, marzipan or fondant and then covered in frosting, sugar strands, edible petals, nuts or fruits. Petit fours are miniature works of art. Some regard them as biscuits but we class them as cakes.


Petit fours variations

There are two main types of petit fours: petit fours frais (fresh) and petit fours secs (dry). The “fresh” variety consists of a sponge base with a cream and/or marzipan filling. Frosting and ornate decorations transform these sweet treats into miniature masterpieces.



Petit fours secs don’t always contain sponge. Alternatives include macaroons, biscuits or puff pastry. Although there is no frosting, the cream filling is still a firm feature. Recreate the flair of a Parisian cafe by serving a selection of petit fours with afternoon tea. Invite your besties, brew a fresh pot of tea (or coffee) and display your petit fours on a cake stand. Buon appetito!