Ithaca’s Best Cupcakes 2020

Zoë Dubrow won 1st Place with her Summer Garden Cupcakes in the 5th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest organized by The Sophie Fund. Inspired by the vibrant flowers in her own backyard garden, Dubrow’s cupcakes consisted of a chocolate and pistachio cake formed to resemble a terracotta pot topped with icing made from raspberry panna cotta, raspberry mousse, and pistachios.

Zoë Dubrow (with roommate) and her prize-winning cupcakes

“They have a lot of components and were a bit challenging to make,” said Dubrow, who won the Grand Prize for the third consecutive year. “But, like growing a garden, baking them was a good reminder that dedicating time and focus to something you love can be very rewarding and, in this case, delicious!”

Zoë Dubrow’s Summer Garden Cupcakes

Rachel Allison won 2nd Place with her Fall Foliage Cupcakes designed to highlight the brilliant colors of autumn and golden afternoon light. The matcha and ginger cupcakes were decorated with a walnut praline spread garnished with gold-dusted chocolate leaves, gold leaf, and gold dragées. “This cupcake is a fusion of the all the best parts of fall,” said Allison. “The flavor is inspired by my favorite cool-weather drink, a matcha latte, blending earthy matcha with creamy ganache and buttercream.”

Rachel Allison’s Fall Foliage Cupcakes

Candice Mahadeo took 3rd Place with her Pistachio and Chocolate Cupcakes, using a personal recipe that was 10 years in the making. “I always had friends and family joyfully agree to be my testers all along the way,” said Mahadeo. “These cupcakes can be the crowning glory of your party contributions, as they were mine. They are the perfect decadent comfort food to satisfy your sweet tooth.”

Grace Mahadeo’s Pistachio Chocolate Cupcakes

Elanor Harris with her Cauldron Cupcakes, inspired by the year-round Halloween decorations adorning her home, won the prize for Best Video. “The story of my cupcakes is, unfortunately, not a spooky fairy tale,” Harris said. “It is merely the story of a girl who loves both Halloween and baking and wanted to honor those two loves with the cupcakes she created.”

Elanor Harris’s Cauldron Cupcakes

Tabitha Gray won the Youth Award for cupcakes inspired by an unlikely source: Twister, her pet rooster. Gray’s lemon pop cakes with lemon frosting were decorated with a rooster head and feathers made of fondant and food coloring. “A couple weeks ago, I heard a bird scream and saw all the birds were there except my rooster,” said Gray. “I went into the woods and saw a fox run away. Then I saw Twister. We didn’t think he’d make it through the night but now he’s walking again. He’s still slowly getting better.”

Tabitha Gray’s Rooster Cupcakes

The Best Story Award went to Ivy Stevens-Gupta, who submitted Hidden Treasure Cupcakes in memory of her daughter, Cach’e Dallas Pelletier. The tropical-themed and rum-flavored vegan cupcakes contained a treasure inside consisting of Pop Rocks representing precious jewels. According to Stevens-Gupta, Cach’e died by suicide five years ago at age 29, having suffered from anxiety and an opioid addiction due to pain caused from a car accident.

Ivy Stevens-Gupta with cupcakes and Cach’e

“My goal in creating these cupcakes was two-fold: to honor the memory of my daughter, and to bring about awareness of the need for better mental healthcare, drug addiction, and suicide prevention programs,” said Stevens-Gupta. “May we all be kind to one another and to animals.”

Ivy Stevens-Gupta’s Hidden Treasure Cupcakes

This year’s contest, moved entirely online due to Covid-19 coronavirus social distancing guidelines, produced cupcakes with diverse themes including fall foliage, Halloween, backyard gardens, farm animals, TV heroes, family memories, mental health, and a certain black cat named Bagel.

The winners were announced at a Facebook Live Event on Saturday hosted by The Mighty Mickie Quinn and Kitschy Scofflaw. The event celebrated the 44 contestants who baked cupcakes and then shared photos, stories, and even some videos of their delicious creations.

The Mighty Mickie Quinn and Kitschy Scofflaw

“I am unbelievably impressed by this year’s entries,” said Quinn. “Having the contest in this format allowed us to learn more about the contestant and the love they put into their creation. And, we’re all here for the love! Thanks to all for coming together to celebrate our bakers and support The Sophie Fund.”

Judging the finalists were professionals from Ithaca’s great 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

Judging the 5th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest

The 5th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest was sponsored by GreenStar Food Co+op, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, and Well Said Media.

The contest was supported by the Active Minds chapters at Ithaca College and Ithaca High School, and with several student organizations from Cornell University: Cornell Minds Matter, Alpha Phi Omega, Phi Sigma Pi, PATCH, and Building Ourselves through Sisterhood and Service.

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, while on a medical leave of absence from Cornell, Sophie was active in Ithaca’s vibrant culinary scene. According to her family, she hoped to open her own bakery after completing her Cornell degree.

Top Winners (receiving Downtown Ithaca Alliance gift cards accepted by more than 100 local shops and restaurants):

1st Place & Grand Prize ($250): Zoë Dubrow

2nd Place ($100): Rachel Allison

3rd Place ($50): Candice Mahadeo

Best Video Award ($250): Elanor Harris

Best Youth Award ($100): Tabitha Gray

Best Story Award ($100): Ivy Steven-Gupta

(The list of Honorable Mentions and Special Award recipients will be posted soon!)

Support the Village at Ithaca!

Student organizations are participating in the 2020 “Cupcake Button” fundraising campaign organized by The Sophie Fund to aid the Village at Ithaca, an organization that advocates for excellence and equity in Ithaca and area public schools.

To DONATE, click here to contribute via GoFundMe. You can select a specific campaign team member to donate through. (100% of the donations will be delivered to the Village at Ithaca.)

Every October, The Sophie Fund along with students from Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Ithaca High School organize a fundraising campaign to support a local nonprofit focused on community well-being. Normally students fan out across Ithaca to collect donations in person, but this year’s effort is entirely online due to social-distancing needs during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Village at Ithaca strives to fulfill its mission by developing strategic community relationships, programs, and services to support all students, particularly Black, Latino/a, low income, and other underserved students.

Village Support Services include academic mentoring, tutoring, family advocacy, emergency outreach, youth employment, and recreation programs.  These services are the “village” it takes to raise a child, and are there to support historically marginalized families in accessing the opportunities they deserve.

The Village at Ithaca also serves as a hub for youth activities, from making music, creating rock paintings, and designing t-shirts to kitchen skills—where else can kids learn how to make pickles, create sauces, and dish up sushi, zoodles, and collard greens?

Click here for more information about the Village at Ithaca.

Previous “Cupcake Button” fundraising campaigns have raised monies for the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service, the Mental Health Association of Tompkins County, and the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.

The symbol of the campaign is a “Cupcake Button,” because the fundraising takes place in the runup to the Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest hosted by The Sophie Fund. Click here for information on the contest and how to enter.

Student groups participating in the 2020 Cupcake Button campaign include:

—Active Minds at Ithaca College

—Active Minds at Ithaca High School

—Cornell University student organizations: Cornell Minds Matter; Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter; Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity; PATCH (Pre-Professional Association Towards Careers in Health); and Building Ourselves through Sisterhood and Service (BOSS).

2020 Cupcake Button (detail from Evolution, a painting by Sophie Hack MacLeod)

It’s the 5th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest (VIRTUAL EDITION!)

If it’s October, then it’s time for the Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest. The 2020 event will be held entirely online, instead of at the Ithaca Commons, due to Covid-19 social distancing needs. We’re excited about the new possibilities!

As usual, contestants of all ages are invited and will be eligible for dozens of prizes including a Grand Prize valued at $250. (Open to amateur bakers only.)

To enter, you will still bake and decorate cupcakes, of course. We can already smell the sweet aromas coming from your ovens!

But instead of bringing them down to the Bernie Milton Pavilion for judging, you’ll take photos of your masterpieces and email them to The Sophie Fund.

We’re also asking you to tell us a brief story about your cupcakes—maybe about what inspired your recipe and decoration. Or what special techniques you used. Or challenges you had to overcome to make your cupcake concept a reality.

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm Saturday October 17.

Entries will then be judged by professionals from Ithaca’s bakeries and restaurants. Judging is based on decoration, originality, and story about the cupcake.

Judges will announce finalists and choose winners during an Online Live Event on Saturday October 24. The Sophie Fund will notify the winners and mail prizes to them. The names of winners will also be announced on www.thesophiefund.org.

Additional Prizes:

Teens and Pre-Teens: A $100 gift certificate redeemable at dozens of downtown Ithaca shops will be presented with this year’s Special Youth Award!

Movie Makers: All contestants must submit photos and a story, but you can also make a short movie about your cupcakes for a separate $100 Video Prize!

The 5th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest is sponsored by GreenStar Food Co+op, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, and Well Said Media.

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, while on a medical leave of absence from Cornell, Sophie was active in Ithaca’s vibrant culinary scene. According to her family, she hoped to open her own bakery after completing her Cornell degree.

Click here for all the information on contest procedures and rules, and to download a registration form.

Suicide Prevention Day—What You Can Do

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. It falls within Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides many helpful resources—to help yourself, support others, promote best practices, and advance better public health policies. Check out AFSP’s #KeepGoing page to see what you personally can do to prevent suicide.

If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

The Sophie Fund is dedicated to preventing suicide in the greater Ithaca community. Our nonprofit organization is named for Sophie Hack MacLeod, a Cornell University student who died by suicide in Ithaca in March 2016. Working with partners, we work to promote mental health awareness and advocate for specific best practices such as the Zero Suicide Model in the Ithaca community as well as on the local college campuses.

In 2017, The Sophie Fund led the adoption of the Watershed Declaration in which 18 community mental health stakeholders pledged to intensify efforts toward saving lives and bringing hope to those struggling with suicide thoughts or affected by suicide loss. The Sophie Fund is a founding member of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition. In 2018, the Tompkins County Legislature called on local healthcare and behavioral healthcare providers to follow the Zero Suicide Model’s systematic clinical approach to preventing suicide.

Please contact us at thesophiefund2016@gmail.com for questions about our mission or to partner in our efforts.