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
This year’s Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest went online due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop local bakers from strutting their stuff.
The judges again had an impossible task, but besides the top winners they selected 10 bakers to receive Honorable Mention Awards. Bravo and thanks to all 44 contestants—you were amazing!
All Honorable Mention awardees were presented with $25 gift certificates from the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.
Active Minds at Ithaca High School
Audrey Greene and Simon LeRoux
Reflect at Cornell
Active Minds at Ithaca High School’s Black Lives Matter Cupcakes: Tiramisu ladyfinger cupcake with a coffee cream center and a sweet ricotta cream cheese frosting
Audrey Greene and Simon LeRoux’s “Matthew and Mae’s” Cupcakes: Cinnamon caramel-filled cake and cinnamon-spice frosting decorated with a candy waterfall
Aušra Milano’s Waffle Cone Cupcakes:Chocolate covered cupcakes with meringue raspberry frosting, in waffle cones
Bella McClintic’s Black Cat Cupcakes: Devil’s food cupcake with dark chocolate Oreo crumbles and buttercream frosting, topped with fondant to create a cute black cat
Della Keahna’s Maple and Blueberry Cupcakes: Gluten-free maple cupcakes with blueberry buttercream and blueberry chia filling
Devan Accardo’s “The Chai-id” Cupcakes: Chai-spiced cake and vanilla and chai frosting decorated as Baby Yoda from Star Wars
Hannah S.’s Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes: Vanilla cupcake filled with a macerated strawberry, topped with a red butter cream rose and multi-color fall leaves
Pamela Crossno’s “Fall” Into Nostalgia Cupcakes: Apple drizzle cupcakes and salted caramel frosting decorated with milk chocolate Ghirardelli chunks and pretzel
Reflect at Cornell’s Frankenstein Cupcakes: Chocolate cupcakes covered with green-dyed vanilla frosting, with M&Ms, chocolate chips, purple sprinkles, and Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal thrown in for decoration
Tamarynde Cacciotti’s Fond Memories Cupcakes: Dark chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow Filling and whipped dark chocolate buttercream frosting with chocolate cats on top
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