EDGEWATER — Michele McAtee has a special nickname for her husband when he grabs a spatula to help make an order of cupcakes at Metropolis Coffee, where her Maddiebird Bakery shares a tiny kitchen.
"Mix Master Mac. To sort of boost his ego," said 38-year-old McAtee, who plans to expand her bakery to its own storefront on Devon Avenue by the end of winter.
The former actress started her bakery business three years ago — with the help of her hubby Aaron — in her Edgewater home after blowing away family with the first cake she ever baked.
The cake, for her daughter Maddie's first birthday party, had a little bird made of frosting perched on top.
"I was not always a baker," said McAtee, but "the day of the party my family and friends were like, 'You gotta be kidding me — come on.'"
Word spread fast. First her friends wanted her to bake cakes and cupcakes for birthday parties and weddings.
And before long, she said, strangers from all over the city were calling her with orders.
So she formed the company and started looking for a commercial kitchen last summer.
One of her creations features a cupcake topped with a tiny Thanksgiving dinner of peas, yams, turkey, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Another features a cake decorated with a hamburger, steak fries and ketchup.
Many of her designs show a stunning attention to detail — like that of a cupcake topped with a likeness of Chicago's skyline, including wispy clouds and a shimmering moon.
"It’s so brazenly creative, her approach to cupcake decoration and cake decoration," said Tony Dreyfuss, who founded Metropolis with his dad in 2003.
He said he and McAtee live in the same building, and after hearing that she needed a kitchen, he invited her to bake part-time at Metropolis' Granville Avenue cafe.
Dreyfuss said the little stretch of Devon, near where Maddiebird will open at 1445½ W. Devon Ave., reminded him of what Granville Avenue near Sheridan Road looked like years ago.
Now it's trendy and bustling with foot traffic.
"People didn’t choose to walk down Granville in 2003. And people don’t choose to walk down Devon in 2013," he said, but Maddiebird could help to change that.
McAtee said she chose to open the bakery in Edgewater, her home since 2005, because she owes it to the neighborhood.
"Maddiebird would not exist without the support of this community," she said, "so I really wanted to set up shop here."
The bakery also wouldn't exist without daughter Maddie, now 4, with whom it all began.
"I decided long ago that I wanted to be the mom that would make my kids' Halloween costumes and ... bake my kids' birthday cakes — not that I had done either of those things before in my life.
"This is who I wanted to be," McAtee said.