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!)

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.

Know the Suicide Warning Signs

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Take the moment to review the warning signs for suicide, as provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Be sure to get help for yourself or others if you see the signs. You may save a life.

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.

1584023607-world-without-suicide-social-media-illustration-graphic

Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.

Warning sign: Talk

If a person talks about:

Killing themselves

Feeling hopeless

Having no reason to live

Being a burden to others

Feeling trapped

Unbearable pain

Warning sign: Behavior

Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

Increased use of alcohol or drugs

Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods

Withdrawing from activities

Isolating from family and friends

Sleeping too much or too little

Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

Giving away prized possessions

Aggression

Fatigue

Warning sign: Mood

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

Depression

Anxiety

Loss of interest

Irritability

Humiliation/Shame

Agitation/Anger

Relief/Sudden Improvement

Support Team Hope!

The Sophie Fund expresses its gratitude to Crystal Howser, one of our area’s greatest suicide prevention champions. Please consider donating to Crystal’s team of volunteers to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention by clicking HERE.

teamhope

Crystal Howser (far left) and her 2020 team

We’re proud to share Crystal’s message:

I’m walking in the Out of the Darkness Greater Ithaca Walk to fight suicide and support AFSP’s bold goal to reduce the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025.

It has been 22 years since we lost my Dad to suicide and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him dearly. It is my goal to work hard, educate, erase stigma, and help fight to prevent suicide losses from happening.

This is our ninth walk in Tompkins County. I co-chair the walk each year along with many other annual events we bring to our local communities (in Tompkins, Cortland, and Cayuga counties). We need to let others know they are not alone!

All donations are 100 percent tax deductible and fund research, education, advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide.

Thank you for your support!

Click here HERE to donate today.

[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.]

For Students, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resources

Students, is Covid-19 getting you down? Your friends have the blues? If you are concerned about your own mental health or the well-being of others, resources are available on the website of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York State (SPCNY).

 

covidstudents

The center urges students to take care of themselves and to be alert to classmates who may be struggling.

“You usually know what is happening before the adults in your school,” says SPCNY. “You have your ear to the ground, you catch rumors, gossip, the buzz on social medial, and you are usually the first ones to know if a peer is in trouble.

“A lot of kids struggle with feeling down or sad that they sometimes are unable to participate in normal activities. Some kids feel so bad that they think about suicide or even make suicide attempts. Some kids actually take their own lives.”

SPCNY notes that young people might be the first to see WARNING SIGNS that indicate that somebody they know may be thinking about suicide.

Click here for a fact sheet to learn more about the warning signs and how to respond to them.

“It is important to take your observations seriously,” SPCNY says. “Do not ignore them or assume your friend is just being dramatic. If you notice any of these warning signs, tell an adult. What you see may be a signal that your friend is thinking about suicide, and that is not something you can deal with on your own.

“If your friend or someone you know makes a direct suicide threat, IMMEDIATELY tell a trusted adult. They might include someone from school like a teacher or a coach, or someone from your church, temple, neighborhood, or family. Whoever that person is, share your concerns and let them take action. If you have immediate concerns about your friend’s safety, before you speak with a trusted adult, call 911!”

What do you do if you are having thoughts about suicide?

“First, know that it is really brave to recognize that you are having suicidal thoughts. Next, do the same thing you would do for your friend—tell a trusted adult. Just as you can’t help your friend by yourself, you need to ask for help too.

“There are lots of resources and skilled professionals who can help figure out why you feel that your life may not be worth living. They will also be able to help you stop feeling that way. Suicide is not just a reaction to stress—something more serious is going on and it is important to get help as soon as you can!

“If you are unsure of what to do, you can call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “GOT5” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. You do not have to identify yourself if you would rather stay anonymous. Someone who has special training in helping people who have questions or concerns will be available to speak or text with you.”

Other SPCNY-recommended resources for students:

What Every Student Needs to Know: The Warning Signs of Suicide Risk

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline youth page

The Trevor Project is a resource for LGBTQ teens

JED Foundation

Suicide Awareness Voices for Education (SAVE)

Society for the Prevention of Teen 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.]