Cakes are important matters, I think we can all agree on that ;) It seems to me as if there are two words in Esperanto: torto and kuko. What is the difference between them? I have a feeling they are not synonyms...

3 Answers 3


In Mazi Revenas there's a torto that looks just like a cake to me. For the most part, though, it breaks down pretty clearly like this:

  • torto - sweet pie
  • kuko - cake

PIV seems to support this as well. A torto has a bottom, some kind of filling, and a top crust -- or a filling that solidifies somewhat.

As always, food terms can be tricky in Esperanto because national dishes don't have international names, so you'll hear people mix these up, but the above description is my best advice on the topic.

  • PIV is knkown to be quite biased towards a French understanding of words, which comes out in this case as well. For central and eastern Europeans the difference is as described by Oliver. La difino en ReVo estas pli konforma kun tiu kompreno ol la difino en PIV. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 8:53
  • The cake in Mazi Revenas is precisely what would be a torto according to the Central-to-Eastern European understanding explained in Oliver's response. The fact that this usage of torto made it into the Mazi course despite the Mazi course being translated from English shows that this usage of torto is considered good Esperanto by many competent seakers (as the language of the Mazi course was surely checked by multiple competent speakers). Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 9:02
  • 1 - yes I know. It's a layer cake. This has been discussed in this thread. 2 - I had assumed that if there was a national language influence it would have been from Polish because that's where the translations and recordings were done, IIRC. 3 - multiple competent speakers discussed this very question (with pictures) in Lingva Konsultejo and couldn't agree whether a layer cake was a cake or a pie. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 12:45
  • I googled for Lingva Konsultejo and found several retejojn. Can someone give me a pointer to the correct one? Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 15:50

In German there are two cognate words: Kuchen and Torte. A Kuchen is just a plain cake, often a sponge base, but generally it is mostly dough-based. A Torte, on the other hand, is more sophisticated: It often consists of different layers, sponge and creamy ones, and has an 'assembly' stage in making it. A Kuchen you prepare, stick in the oven, and it's done. A Torte is more complicated, so you'be bake the layers, make a (quite solid) cream, and then put them together in the final result. While a Kuchen is sometimes eaten warm, a Torte would always be cold.

  • This question was asked two years ago in the Lingva Konsultejo and generated 125 replies, or so. Germans and Russians seemed to feel very strongly that a cake and a layer cake are categorically different - the latter being a "torto." PIV, however, defines the bottom layer of a torto as being made of dough -- which is what I would call a pie. Cognate words don't really tell us what this means in the Lingvo Internacia. It certainly proves my point that national foods don't have good names in an international language. Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 23:37
  • True, this kind of food is very hard to map onto words in different languages. So I fully subscribe to your final sentence! Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 15:54
  • I want to add to this answer that this is not only the case in German, but also in many other languages of central and Eastern Europe, and therefore also in Esperanto as used by people in that area. given that Zamenhof was also from that area, I suppose that his intention was this one, rather than the French interpretation that made it into PIV. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 8:55
  • Ultimately, the question should be "what do these words mean in Esperanto?" and not "what do the cognates mean in my native language or some other language that I'm familiar with?" (As for Germans and Russians, see my first comment above.) Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 12:51
  • True, but it is generally helpful to discuss the origin of a word when arguing about their meaning. In the end, as Humpty Dumpty remarked, words mean what you want them to mean. And if most users of Esperanto use the words in a way their cognates are used in their native languages, then that is exactly what they mean. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 14:12

Check out ReVo for more details.

  • Torto = Pie or tart

enter image description here

  • Kuko = Cake

enter image description here

  • Nice photos. Could you add an explanation to justify this? The other answers given so far go into some detail explaining why this might be a fuzzy question - and the pictures really don't clarify. I know many fluent speakers who would call the thing in the second picture a "torto" (even though I would call it a kuko) - so I would say that without further explanation the pictures confuse more than they clarify. Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 15:16
  • 2
    (sorry, I couldn't resist from commenting). This is a bit counter-intuitive, since the things are exactly the opposite in my language (Ukrainian); /tort/ is the tall one. Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 22:30
  • Same in German. Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 8:59
  • For me it's also the other way round. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 8:54
  • Also in Mazi Revenas, something more similar to the second than to the first is called a torto. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 9:03

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