With so much turnover in both the crazy restaurant and real estate scenes, it seems like a mini-miracle when a business survives even a few years in Denver, let alone 35. One of those success stories? Le Bakery Sensual. Against all odds, owner John Spotz has found a niche for his titillating treats that have become a humorous neighborhood staple. You might just call it the little penis that could.
We caught up with John to talk all things naughty and nice.
Lauren Monitz: You’re an OG from Colorado?
John Spotz: Yup. A native of Fort Morgan, I left the minute I turned 18 to head to Denver.
Give me the back story, how did you come up with the idea for a penis cupcake bakery?
Oh this wasn’t my idea. I bought the existing shop in 1981. I’d heard about the bakery while I was in art school and thought it’d be a fun way to pay the bills. I was happy just being an employee, but my boss died from cancer really suddenly at age 27. It was shocking, but he wasn’t very hands on so it didn’t feel all that different. At the time, there were a bunch of 19-year-old kids in the kitchen fulfilling orders and running the place. Soon after, his father’s estate put the business up for sale.
Why this location?
This is actually our fourth location. We’ve been at our current spot at Sixth and Lincoln for about 25 years, though. The visibility and parking have been great despite being in a residential neighborhood.
We started at Fourth and Broadway, until the city decided to change our zoning from a retail bakery to adult bookstore, giving us thirty-days notice to vacate. We temporarily moved to Aurora, sued the city for freedom of speech and won. The zoning was changed back to bakery and here we are.
What percentage of your business is erotica vs. normal cakes?
Less than you’d think, we only make about twenty-percent erotic cakes. We do way more kid’s birthday parties than penises. While you may find it weird that kids are in here all day, they know what they’re in for. It’s like health class — they’ll giggle and say “ew,” but ultimately find it funny, not offensive.
In the display case, we intentionally put the flamingo for the baby shower next to the boobs. We like to shock and awe and show that we’re not a one-trick pony. People mention all the time that the cutesy cakes are right next to the bachelorette party stuff.
What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever gotten?
Oh gosh, every week's different. This month was the reproduction of a life-sized basset hound.
Is there an art to crafting penises and boobs? Do they all look different?
There’s a formula, but everyone makes what they know. What we don’t want is customers comparing them or saying, those boobs look better, that penis is bigger. The shapes stay somewhat uniform, but we like to get creative with the accessories and poses. The one I’m making today will have a breast pump attached.
I know you make cupcakes for Drag Bingo at Maloney’s; do you supply any other businesses in town?
Hamburger Mary’s [now M Uptown]; the Cycle Slut’s fundraisers; Rockstar Aaron; we really have the bingo scene on lock.
What’s the secret to surviving 35 years?
That old cliché – love what you do, make something hilarious, and say yes to any request. If we’ve never done it, we’ll figure it out. We’re on our second and third generation of customers so we must be doing something right.
All our staff is artists. They each get a tablet for inspiration, but for the most part they just wing it. They’ll email design ideas back and forth to clients but rarely do they sketch or draw out anything first. We have an open kitchen so people love coming in to consult with their cake artist and see the process at work.
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SHOW ME HOW
Back in the day, you got a very creative Best of Denver award?
Yes best discount for flashing (2009), which is still valid. All ladies get ten percent off on Friday’s for showing the goodies.
That’s a celebration we can get behind.