Making her couture cake and eating it too
Madison Lee Cakes is located in Brooklyn, New York, in the Parks Slope section of the city. The bakery is a shared space with Cousin John’s Café and Bakery. At first glance, you see a bakery in the middle of the block, surrounded by other boutique-style shops in the heart of the iconic brownstones. As you walk in you realize that there is more than just a bakery. This is an amazing story of family tradition deeply rooted in sculpting more than sweet confections.
Madison Lee Barricelli, owner of Madison Lee Cakes, is 28 years old and has accomplished so many incredible things. Her original career goals did not include becoming a baker. She wanted to be a teacher. Her reason was more than just a desire to teach. She wanted to inspire children who, like her, had difficulties with learning in one area or the other. Madison is dyslexic.
Her goals, honorable and achievable, required her to work harder than the average student. As time went on, she realized that maybe there was something else that she could do. She was raised with her parents and her younger brother. Her father conducted the business side of the bakery, while the namesake of the bakery, cousin John, did the baking.
Barricelli says, “It was my mother’s dream to own a cake shop. She loved making homestyle cakes. Cousin John would bake them, and mom would come home and redecorate them.”
It was no surprise then that her mother joined a Christmas Cookie class taught by Toba Garrett. As luck would have it, her mother was unable to attend the class and asked that Barricelli take her place.
She recalls walking into that class and thinking that she really didn’t want to be there. The class started and things started to fall into place. Barricelli says, “It was hard for me to follow the directions, but my cookies looked amazing!”
Garrett was quick to let her know that you have to follow directions, and she really appreciated the firm correction. This inspired her to sign up for a degree program in savory cooking at The Institute of Culinary Education. During her time there, there was a baking section.
This proved a moment of pure clarity. Dyslexia always seemed to present a challenge that scared her from the technical part of baking. However, she says that once she got the sugar in her hands that she felt at home. Barricelli says, “Everything I was afraid of didn’t matter because I understood it.” She was no longer afraid. She could create confectionery pieces of art.
The years of going against the family grain of bakers is over and now she had one of the most successful cake careers of her generation. Her father is to credit for giving her tough love and pushing her to be the best she could be.
Madison Lee Cakes certainly has a unique style. Ever the artist, Barricelli hand paints some of her cakes, using all forms of sugar techniques to create the most gorgeous cakes a couple could dream of. Her favorite technique is her signature Birch Cake. This cake resembles the bark of tree so much so that clients have to do a double take to make sure it’s not real. Barricelli says, “That’s my favorite part!”
Each cake is as unique as the client she creates cakes for. There are no cookie-cutter designs here. Her attention to these fine details has given her the opportunity to create cakes for some of the industry’s most prestigious magazines and clients. She has been featured in Brides, Huffington Post, Style Me Pretty, New York Wedding, Good Morning
America, and she’s also been awarded numerous first prize gold medals for her outstanding work.
Barricelli’s goals of teaching are also coming to fruition, as she opens a second location this year at 336 West 37th Street in Manhattan’s legendary Garment District. She will be offering continuing education to seasoned cake artists to teach new techniques and trends. This location will also serve a hub for meeting with her brides and grooms from the tristate area.
As life often imitates art, Barricelli is going to be a bride herself in a few short months. When asked who is making her cake, she replies with a smile. “Me! I am making my cake and eating it too.”