Remember that famous Spring Fling cake? You can buy it again in Denver
When Melchor Ocampo moved to this country in 1990 from Cuernavaca, Mexico, he did not know — by his own admission — “anything about baking,” much less how to develop and refine one of the more iconic cakes to ever have come out of the ovens of Denver.
The Spring Fling cake begins as an egg, sugar and flour batter substantiated with shredded zucchini, and ends in flourishes of flung spring fruits such as mangoes, strawberries and kiwi secured by a cream cheese frosting.
After baking thousands of Spring Flings at Larimer Square’s sadly departed The Market, Ocampo and his family, notably daughter Ruth Simonson, recently opened their own bakery, Eternal Flavors Bakery, in Denver’s southwestern neighborhood of Bear Valley. There, they will be baking many dozens of confections and, of course, many more Spring Flings.
Ocampo, head baker at The Market for 25 years, recounts the history of the Spring Fling, a cake that preceded his tenure at The Market, at least in name.
“As far as I remember,” says Ocampo, “in the beginning the Spring Fling was made with banana bread.”
“It didn’t sell well.”
After a while, smashed ripe bananas were swapped out for shredded carrot and “for a while, we changed it to being made with carrot cake,” says Ocampo.
“Same thing; that didn’t sell well, either.”
Then a random customer of The Market’s came in and asked Ocampo for a cake to be made with what was something of a rage in the mid-1990s: zucchini bread. (Remember zucchini bread? Every year, very big in September.)
“So,” says Ocampo, “I started making the Spring Fling with zucchini cake, not a zucchini “bread” really, and putting a fresh cream cheese frosting on top and in between the layers and, well, it just took off.”
The current version of the Spring Fling has Ocampo’s delicious cream cheese frosting on all sides, not merely the horizontals. Glory be, beating gravity.
In April 2020, The Denver Post published a bake-at-home version of the Spring Fling cake, using a recipe first published in the Rocky Mountain News on May 10, 2006. “That 2006 recipe went viral,” says Ocampo, as did the popularity of the 2020 Denver Post replay.
The recipe is Ocampo’s. He simplified and made applicable to the home baker the industrial-sized scale of the recipe that he used at The Market. For instance, “it was my idea,” he says, “to suggest that a home cook could use 10-inch rounds,” the baking tins most home cooks would have.
“What matters most, though,” he finishes, “is your oven. What matters most is that you have a good oven.”
At Eternal Flavors, Ocampo and family hope soon to open a deli, in addition to the bakery staples that already grace the cooler shelves.
Eternal Flavors Bakery, 5600 West Dartmouth Ave., Unit 104, Denver; 720-309-4721. Open most days until 6 p.m.
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