Ithaca’s Best Cupcakes 2022

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.

Megan Martinez’s Grand Prize-winning Cupcakes

“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.

1st Place Awardee Megan Martinez

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

It’s United in Kindness Month!

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:

WHEREAS, bullying has been identified as a prevalent and serious problem affecting today’s youth, and
 
WHEREAS, 19 percent of high school students nationally, and 21.7 percent of New York State high school students are bullied at school, and
 
WHEREAS, types of youth bullying include physical, verbal, and relational bullying, as well as cyberbullying that involves threatening or harassing electronic communications, and
 
WHEREAS, bullying has psychological, physical, and academic effects, and adversely affects youth who are bullied as well as those who engage in bullying, and
 
WHEREAS, more than two dozen government agencies, community organizations, parents, and representatives from the County’s six school districts formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force in March 2019, and
 
WHEREAS, the Task Force’s mission is to facilitate comprehensive cooperation across the community in developing and promoting appropriate bullying prevention and response strategies in Tompkins County, and
 
WHEREAS, every member of the Tompkins County community, government agencies, community organizations, school administrators, teachers, athletic coaches, parents, and students can play a part in creating a bully-free environment in our schools, athletics fields, public spaces, and online websites,
 
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Shawna Black, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, do hereby proclaim the month of October 2022, as
UNITED IN KINDNESS MONTH IN TOMPKINS COUNTY.

Support NAMI–Finger Lakes!

Welcome to The Sophie Fund’s 2022 Cupcake Button fundraiser! Each October, we work alongside student organizations to raise monies for a local nonprofit focused on community wellbeing.

This year’s campaign is collecting funds for the Finger Lakes affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

NAMI-Finger Lakes provides free support, education, and advocacy for people closest to those living with mental health conditions. An organization slogan is, “With NAMI Finger Lakes, you are not alone.”

100 percent of the donations to the 2022 Cupcake Button campaign will go to NAMI-Finger Lakes.

Among its activities, NAMI Finger Lakes runs a HELP Line at 607-273-2462. Experienced volunteers answer calls for support and mental health resources with empathy and understanding.

NAMI Finger Lakes offers a variety of programs to support and educate community members concerning mental health.

The Family-to-Family Education program is designed to help improve the coping and problem-solving skills of family members, significant others, and friends of people with mental health conditions.

Other programs include peer-led family support groups and education sessions for those providing care for youth with mental health symptoms. NAMI Finger Lakes also engages in outreach such as talks to local groups and connecting with employers about workforce mental health.

In addition, NAMI Finger Lakes advocates for public policies for improving mental health at the local and state levels.

Click here for more information about NAMI-Finger Lakes.

This year’s Cupcake Button campaign is supported by many student organizations, including Cornell University’s Cornell Minds Matter, Alpha Phi Omega–Gamma Chapter, Reflect at Cornell, Phi Sigma Pi, Pre-Professional Association Toward Careers in Health (PATCH), Cornell Circle K, and Cornel Health International.

Students raise money through various in-person activities (and provide donors with Cupcake Buttons) on campus and in the community. The campaigns have raised more than $5,000 for organizations including the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, the Village at Ithaca, and The Learning Web.

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. To enter this year’s cupcake contest, go to: https://thesophiefund.org/cupcake-contest/.

To donate directly to NAMI Finger Lakes, click here.

For more information about The Sophie Fund, go to:www.thesophiefund.org.

Time for the 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest!

Still smell the flavors? Spicy apple, blueberry, vanilla-lavender, maple, mango, Earl Grey, crème brûlée, and of course chocolaty chocolate. among many other aromas, tantalized the imaginations of the judges of last year’s Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest.

We can’t wait to see what Ithaca’s amateur bakers come up with in 2022! For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, the contest will be in person again this year, on Saturday October 15 at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons.

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

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

Contestants are invited to submit trays of six cupcakes, their recipes, and brief stories about their creations.

The story could be about a person, place, or thing that inspired your recipe and decoration. Or what special techniques you used. Or what fun you had baking them. Or what challenges you had to overcome making your cupcake dream a reality.

Contest submissions are received from 10 a.m.–11:30 a.m. on Saturday October 15 at the Bernie Milton Pavilion. The entries will then be judged by professionals from Ithaca’s bakeries and restaurants. Judging is based on cupcake taste, decoration, and originality. Winners will be announced at an Awards Ceremony at 3 p.m.

Prizes include 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Awards, a Youth Award for teens and pre-teens, and several Special Awards.

The 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest is sponsored by Visions Federal Credit Union, Cayuga Health, MindWell Center, and GreenStar Food Co+op.

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.

Sign Up for Mental Health First Aid

Mental health challenges are more common than ever. Are you concerned about a friend or family member? Do you want to gain confidence in talking about mental health? Do you want to know more about what to do in a crisis?

Join the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County for a free Mental Health First Aid training on Saturday, July 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a comprehensive course from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing that teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The training teaches the skills to reach out and provide initial help and support to an adult who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.  

To receive certification, participants must attend for the full-day course, and complete a 2-hour self-paced pre-course. (For those without computer/internet access for the self-paced course, the Mental Health Association can provide space and a computer.)

This training is provided in partnership with The History Center in Tompkins County with financial support from The Sophie Fund.

MHFA covers:

         •        Common signs and symptoms of mental health challenges

         •        Common signs and symptoms of substance use challenges

         •        How to interact with a person in crisis

         •        How to connect a person with help

         •        Information on trauma and its impacts

         •        Self-care

MHFA teaches a five-step action plan for first aiders:

         •        A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm

         •        L: Listen nonjudgmentally

         •        G: Give reassurance and information

         •        E: Encourage appropriate professional help

         •        E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies

WHEN: Saturday July 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a break for lunch on your own)

WHERE: The History Center in Tompkins County, 110 N. Tioga Street (Ithaca Commons), Ithaca, NY 14850

COST: Free

TO REGISTER: Contact Melanie Little, Director of Education, at mlittle@mhaedu.org or (607) 273-9250.

—By Melanie Little

Melanie Little is the Director of Education and a Certified Peer Specialist at the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County