Welcome to The Sophie Fund’s 2021 Cupcake Button fundraiser! Each October, we work alongside student organizations to raise monies for a local nonprofit focused on community wellbeing.
Members of The Learning Web’s Volunteer Community Service Program help the Family Reading Partnership prepare books to be given to local kids
This year the campaign is collecting funds for The Learning Web, an Ithaca agency offering experiential learning, youth employment, and independent living programs to youth and young adults in Tompkins County.
One hundred percent of monies raised will go to The Learning Web and specifically to its Supporting Strong Families project. The project helps youth with children learn new skills, acquire childcare equipment and supplies, and access needed resources.
The Learning Web strives to support local youth—from the homeless to the more fortunate—to make the transition to adulthood successfully, finish high school, develop a productive career path leading to gainful employment and self-sufficiency, and contribute in a healthy and positive way to better the greater Ithaca community.
Every year The Learning Web helps 600 youth, 200 of whom are homeless, through a variety of programs. Services are provided to ensure safe housing, assist education and training opportunities, develop career pathways through apprenticeships and employment, and help with parenting skills for young parents.
Students will raise money through in-person activities (and provide donors with Cupcake Buttons) and through online collections via GoFundMe.
The symbol of the campaign is a Cupcake Button, because the fundraising takes place in the run-up 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/
2021 Cupcake Button (detail from Evolution, a painting by Sophie Hack MacLeod)
Seventeen-year-old Autum tended to describe herself as introverted, closed off, and with a lot to say but not always the opportunity to say it. She often found herself struggling to find her voice and to interact with people.
The Village at Ithaca changed Autum’s outlook completely. Today, a sociable proactive high school senior, Autum goes through her days speaking up for what she knows is wrong and what needs to change. She is outgoing and collaborates with peers and adults alike. As a summer youth employee, Autum became a founding member of the Village’s Girls of Color female empowerment group. She is the student coordinator of the Stolen Joy Project, a social media initiative that shares stories of racism and oppression experienced in public school by students of color.
“Through the Village at Ithaca, I have found a safe space for me to be my true, authentic self,” said Autum, explaining how she had the opportunity to meet peers who have felt misplaced and share stories strengthening their bond.
Founded in 2002, the Village at Ithaca is a non-profit organization that advocates for education equity for black, brown, low income, and other underrepresented and underserved populations. Designed to meet family needs, the Village provides wraparound support services such as academic tutoring, family advocacy, and emergency food and financial support. The Village is committed to actively listening to families and designing programming based on community needs. “We as an organization, as a community can always do more and do better for our children and families,” said Executive Director Meryl Phipps.
The Village’s Student Success Center is one of the many programs that focuses on improving students’ understanding of their course material to create a solid foundation. Each student is paired with an Achievement Coach who works one-on-one with them to first “affirm, inspire, encourage, instruct.” In this current climate of pandemic schooling, the Student Success Center has evolved to include virtual tutoring as well as daily in-person academic support during the school day for middle and high school students struggling to navigate remote learning.
Another important Village service is the Family Advocacy Program, which helps both students and families ensure they have all the resources provided to them to excel in school and their home life. Family Advocates attend school meetings to support caregivers and students in making their voices heard. They also join caregivers of students with disabilities at Committee on Special Education meetings, and advocate for students in disciplinary proceedings.
The Village is open to students of all ages. The organization has supported some young people from elementary school all the way through college. “We take our name very seriously,” said Phipps. “Once you reach out and want to be a part of our village, we will follow you all the way.”
The Village operates with Phipps as the only full-time employee and three part-time employees. Phipps finds herself with her hands full, writing grant proposals one day and tutoring biology the next. She is a 2009 graduate of Cornell Law School, and practiced family law in Ithaca before joining the Village. “I was frustrated by the challenges of working with kids in an oppressive system that wasn’t serving the needs of vulnerable people,” said Phipps. “I’ve always been more interested in policy work and in thinking outside of the box to create solutions to historically rooted problems—this all has been liberating.”
—By Anna Moura
Anna Moura, an intern at The Sophie Fund, is a Class of 2021 Writing major and Psychology minor at Ithaca College.
[The Village is the recipient of $1,018.00 in donations collected in The Sophie Fund’s 2020 Cupcake Button Fundraising Campaign, which is held annually to aid local nonprofits supporting mental health and wellness. The Sophie Fund thanks the following student organizations for participating in the campaign: At Cornell University, 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); Active Minds at Ithaca College; and Active Minds at Ithaca High School. To learn more about the Village at Ithaca, or to become involved in its work, visit the Village on social media, at http://www.villageatithaca.org, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Contestants in the 5th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest (Virtual Edition) delivered spectacular performances with their photos, videos, and stories —congratulations to the winners of Special Awards!
Home for the Holidays Award
Four-Out-of-Five Opticians Recommend Award
Spirit of Fall Award
Pretty in Pink Award
Breakfast Club Award
Monster Banana Split Award
Oh Gourd, They’re Good Award
Village at Ithaca
Cupcake on a Budget Award
Best Cookies and Cream Award
Most Intoxicating Award
Somewhere Over the Rainbow Award
Mid-Autumn Festival Award
Rooted in Tradition Award
Whoopee! It’s Pumpkin! Award
Lei Lei Wu & Sophia Zhang
Cuckoo for Coconut and Chocolate Award
Mental Health Message Award
Ode to Applefest Award
Halloween Spirit Award
Molly Smith & Tyler Rodriguez
Please Wear a Mask Award
Hudson and Patti Meyers
Doggone Cutest Award
Holiday Excite-mint Award
Time Lord Award
Best Co-Worker Award
Cutest Creatures Award
Most Homegrown Award
Alli Arndt’s Nutella Fluffernutter Cupcakes
Anastasia Kreisel’s Apple Cider Cupcakes
Angela Li’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Anna Whitten’s Sunflower Foliage Cupcakes
Bella Nevarez’s Sweet Pink Cupcakes
Brenna Hanratty’s Maple Buttermilk Pancake Cupcakes
Dina S.’s Banana Split Cupcakes
The Village at Ithaca’s Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes
Emma Moulton’s Spooky Cupcakes
Hailey Whitten’s Oreos Cupcakes
Heather Williams’s Kahlua Me Krazy Cupcakes
Henry Bowes’s Carrot, Pineapple, and Coconut Cupcakes
Judy Zhu’s Matcha Cupcakes
Juno Parreñas’s Roots Cupcakes
Katy Holloway’s “A Few of My Favorite Things” Cupcakes
Lei Lei Wu and Sophia Zhang’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Lillian Bulman’s “Triple-C” Cupcakes
Mariah Meads’s Semi-Colon Cupcakes
Mary Sever-Schoonmaker’s “It’s Fall Ya’ All” Apple Crisp Cupcakes
Molly Smith and Tyler Rodriguez’s Halloween Cupcakes
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:
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!)
Thanks to the more than 40 contestants who entered the 5th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest (Virtual Edition)! Now the judging begins! Throughout the week, The Sophie Fund will publish posts here and on social media spotlighting all the cupcake masterpieces. On Saturday October 24, the judges will announce the winners in a Facebook Live Event. Stay tuned!
Our gratitude also goes to the student organizations supporting the contest: Active Minds at Ithaca College, Active Minds at Ithaca High School, and at Cornell University, 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).
Meanwhile, enjoy a slideshow of past Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contests held in the Ithaca Commons—hopefully we’ll be back at the Bernie Milton Pavilion again next October!
Blueberry Bourbon Cupcakes
Cupcakes, and more cupcakes
Have a cupcake?
Kitschy Scofflaw and GreenStar’s Debbie Lazinsky
The Alternatives crew
Alpha Phi Omega
Cornell Minds Matter
CMM’s Chelsea Kiely delivers a mental health message
Lyn Staack of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County
Advocacy Center’s Lara Hamburger speaks on domestic violence and sexual assault