The Sophie Fund extends its gratitude and heartfelt thanks to the sponsors of the 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest on October 15: Visions Federal Credit Union (premier sponsor), Cayuga Health, MindWell Center, and GreenStar Food Co+op (a sponsor of every cupcake contest going back to the beginning in 2016).
Contestants in the 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest on October 15 presented dazzling entries—congratulations to these winners of Special Awards!
Hudson Sage Meyers Emberley
Pumpkin Patch Award
You’ll Fall for These Award
Most Fulfilling Award
Most Bombastic Award
Retro Diner Award
Out of This World Award
Della Keahna Warrior
It’ll Make You Go Nuts! Award
Just the Right Amount of Zest Award
Peachy Keen Award
Kristina LaPage’s entry: Maple-flavored cakes and local honey and vanilla buttercream frosting, decorated with honeycombs, molded from white chocolate, and hard-candy sugar bees—celebrating a passion for bees and sweet family memories.
Hudson Sage Meyers Emberley’s entry: Vanilla cakes with individualized frosting in red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and purple-pink colors—rainbow cupcakes representing “all lives should be equal.”
Ada Caster’s entry: Gluten-free yellow cakes with dark chocolate frosting topped with pumpkin decorations—representing a farmer’s field at harvest time.
Brooke Gordon’s entry: Apple cider cakes with maple cinnamon buttercream frosting, inspired by a family apple-picking adventure.
Anna Brown’s entry: Nut and cardamon flavored cakes with dulce de leche cream filling and coconut scented fondant icing, an homage to the payasam pudding that caps a traditional sadhya meal during the harvest festival in southern India.
Michael Herceg’s entry: Cherry swirl cakes with a chocolate almond mousse and cherry center and red-colored chocolate top and a lime fuse, a “cupcake explosion” inspired by the song “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways.
Mary Sever-Schoonmaker’s entry: Root beer flavored cakes with whipped root beer cream filling, and a buttercream frosting made from vanilla bean ice cream—root beer float cupcakes with cherries on top.
Della Keahna Warrior’s entry: Purple sweet potato cakes with maple rum and clementine marmalade filling and spiced buttercream frosting topped with foraged flowers—a gluten-free, plant-based, soy-free creation.
Persephone Doggett’s entry: Nutella and hazelnut flavored cakes and Nutella frosting sprinkled with gold sugar crystals.
Echo Doggett’s entry: strawberry and lemon cakes with lemon icing, from a recipe that once saw duty for a family wedding cake.
Cy Centeno-Pearlman’s entry
The Sophie Fund thanks the 25 bakers who made their masterpieces and entered them in this year’s annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest. Judging so much originality, creativity, and skill is a difficult challenge, but besides the three top awardees 10 contestants were selected to receive Honorable Mention Awards. Bravo to all! Honorable Mention awardees were presented with $25 gift certificates from the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.
Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service
Aušra Milano’s entry: Fully edible (including the saucer) autumn-themed chai latte cupcakes in a waffle cone, with an Earl Grey tea-flavored sablée cookie base and brown butter and cream cheese frosting on top.
Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service’s entry: Moist chocolate cupcakes with strawberry buttercream filling, topped with dark chocolate ganache and the colors and words of the suicide prevention mission.
Anastasia Beltz’s entry: Cakes made with eggs from the contestant’s own chickens and flavored with honey from a neighbor’s apiary, with honey-flavored frosting and topped with honeycomb and bee decorations.
Suzanne Beltz’s entry: Gingerbread cakes with mango-flavored cream cheese frosting, topped with tiny gingerbread houses.
Henry Bowes’s entry: apple cakes with cream cheese butter frosting and caramel drizzle, based on a family recipe dating back 40 years to evoke the flavors of fall caramel apples.
Takoda Warner’s entry: Earl Grey-flavored cupcakes and frosting with lemon curd fillings, designed as a three-tier layer cake using stands made of brittle coated with toasted sesame seeds.
Kate Bagnell’s entry: spice cake with apple pie filling, topped with buttercream and pie crust, explained in the creator’s poem: I’ve always loved to bake/But am not really into cake/Cookies can be lots of fun/But feel a bit overdone/Breads could show off some skill/But unfortunately don’t fit the bill/So instead I offer you a cake/Topped with a buttery flake/And the flavors inside this treat/Bring the warmth of a seasonal feast/So now please feast your eyes/On these cupcakes in disguise/As miniature apple pies.
Sarah Scinto-Madonich’s entry: cakes made with homemade apple cider reduction (apples from Indian Creek Farm) and apple pie spices, topped with maple-flavored cream cheese frosting.
Renee Stilwell’s entry: chocolate cakes made without eggs or butter, filled with chocolate mousse and topped with peanut butter cream frosting and chopped peanuts and chocolate shavings garnish, from an old family recipe.
Krya O’Toole’s entry: pumpkin spice latte cakes with white chocolate frosting, decorated with flowers, favorite foods, and framed pictures honoring recent personal losses in the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition.
Megan Martinez won 1st Place with her Tiramisu Bouquet Cupcakes in the 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest organized by The Sophie Fund on October 15. Her masterpiece consisted of ladyfinger cakes soaked with marsala and expresso syrup, topped with whipped mascarpone frosting dusted with cocoa powder and a hand-cut chocolate bouquet of flowers.
“Tiramisu is a dessert that everyone in my house can get on board with, so when it comes to making cupcakes that I think are the very best, this is one of the first places my mind goes,” Martinez said. “The syrup soak makes such a moist cupcake. Having this with a cup of coffee is like heaven to me.”
Martinez said that the contest provided her with “an excuse to spend some time on a fancy baking project.” With a five-month-old baby, she explained, “baking like I used to has been completely off my radar.” Fun fact (and perhaps an inspiration?): the last time Martinez tasted tiramisu was in the hospital just after her little one was born.
The judges awarded Akiko Cliteur 2nd Place with her Baked Cheesecake and Swan Cream Puff Cupcakes. She explained that she has loved making baked cheesecake with sour cream topping since discovering a recipe 15 years ago, and that cream puffs are another of her go-to desserts. “I thought about combining my favorite things together as a cupcake for the first time for this contest,” Cliteur said.
Akiko Cliteur’s Baked Cheesecake and Swan Cream Puff Cupcake
Ayumi Pereira took home 3rd Place with her Matcha Green Tea Cream-Filled Cupcakes. The treats consisted of matcha-flavored cakes with cream cheese filling, whipped vanilla cream frosting, topped with a white chocolate sakura, or cheery blossom. “I’m from Japan, and I wanted to create cupcakes with something that represents my county,” Pereira said. “Matcha is a Japanese green tea powder, and it has an addictive, earthy, smooth green tea flavor.”
Ayumi Pereira’s Matcha Green Tea Cream-Filled Cupcake
Katy Holloway received the Youth Award for the second year in a row, for her gluten-free S’more Cupcakes Please! Cupcakes. Her chocolate cakes had a honey graham cracker base and a chocolate ganache center, and were topped with marshmallow frosting and marshmallow and Hershey’s bar decorations.
“S’mores are full of memories of friends and family around the campfire filled with summer fun,” said Katy, who recalls with a smile the time her brother got some sticky white goo stuck in his hair while roasting marshmallows.
Katy Holloway’s S’more Cupcakes Please! Cupcake
This year’s contest, held in the Ithaca Commons, drew 25 entries with a range of themes from chai latte and root beer floats, local honey and apple pies, gingerbread houses and pumpkin patches, family recipes and mental health awareness, and the ‘70s rock band The Runaways, Day of the Dead traditions, and the Onam harvest festival in India.
The Awards Ceremony was hosted by Carley Robinson of the Civic Ensemble, and featured live musical performances by SingTrece & Kenneth McLaurin, Joe Gibson, Rachel Beverly, and the Maud Powell and Joachim Group Suzuki classes at Ithaca Talent Education.
Judging the finalists were professionals from Ithaca’s culinary community: Yuko Jingu of Akemi Food; Ashley Case of Case Sera Sera; Racquel Riccardi of the Sinfully Delicious Baking Co.; Melissa Kenny of Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop; and Via Carpenter of Via’s Cookies.
The 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest was sponsored by Visions Federal Credit Union, Cayuga Health, GreenStar Food Co+op, and MindWell Center. Technical support was contributed by Well Said Media and Hickey’s Music Center. The contest was produced by Cara Nichols of CRN Events.
Volunteers from student organizations at Cornell University supported the contest: Cornell Circle K, Alpha Phi Omega, Phi Sigma Pi, PATCH, and Cornell Health International, and Cornell Minds Matter.
Also participating in the day-long event were organizations advancing mental health in the greater Ithaca community. They included: Be Kind Ithaca; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Mental Health Association in Tompkins County; National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Finger Lakes; Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca; and the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.
The contest is organized every year by The Sophie Fund, which was established in 2016 in memory of Cornell University art student Sophie Hack MacLeod to support mental health initiatives aiding young people. Sophie’s passion for baking cupcakes inspired the launch of the first Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest in 2016. At the time of her death by suicide at age 23, Sophie was on a medical leave of absence from Cornell and active in Ithaca’s culinary scene.
Top Awardees (receiving Downtown Ithaca Alliance gift cards accepted by more than 100 local shops and restaurants):
1st Place & Grand Prize ($250): Megan Martinez
2nd Place ($150): Akiko Cliteur
3rd Place ($100): Ayumi Pereira
Youth Award ($100): Katy Holloway
The Tompkins County Legislature has proclaimed October to be “United in Kindness Month” aligned with National Bullying Prevention Month.
Legislature Chair Shawna Black issued the proclamation on October 6 after the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force coordinated a series of nine events with kindness themes for the month. Task Force Steering Committee Member Brandi Remington, Youth Development Coordinator at TST BOCES, was on hand to receive the proclamation.
The proclamation reads as follows: