Though just opened by Gillian and Alam Muralles in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara a couple of weeks ago, the “dedicated gluten-free café” Lilac Pâtisserie (1017 State St.;  845-7400; lilacpatisserie.com) is already proving wrong the negative stereotypes that many associate with gluten-free baked goods. In fact, the creations are so tasty that those taking a bite must often be convinced that what they are eating is, in fact, sans gluten.
Not that the recipes came easy, though. After Gillian was diagnosed with celiac disease, the duo — who’d met and married while working at prestigious SoCal bakeries — embarked on a journey of creating gluten-free flour blends that retain the flavors and textures of their gluten-filled counterparts. Today, they have 23 cake flavors on their menu to show for their diligence. “Those are all flavors we’ve worked really hard on independently, testing and retesting them,” explained Gillian, “so we feel like they have the perfect flavor profile.”
They guarantee that if something doesn’t taste good, they won’t put it on the menu. “We are really, really picky,” said Gillian. “We don’t want to limit ourselves just because we are gluten free. We always want the taste, texture, and visual aspect to be excellent.” In short, these are cakes that both the gluten consumer and gluten abstainer will love.
Their recently renovated space is bright and expansive and includes a back patio. They hope to offer the Santa Barbara community a place to take a break, slow down, and savor a delicious slice of cake with friends. “The great thing about cake is that it is meant to be shared!” said Gillian.
In the coming months, they plan to expand the menu to include a light (of course, gluten-free) brunch and then eventually remain open in the evening for after-dinner desserts. For now, the duo hopes to showcase their skills in baking delicious and beautiful cakes for the Santa Barbara community. They service weddings and parties and provide walk-in consultations on cake creations — something that Gillian is excited to use her training in creative, custom cake decorations for.
Even though Gillian likened choosing her favorite cake to picking a favorite child, she was able to name two of her favorites:
Berry Patch Cake: An orange-infused butter cake filled with fresh berries and whipped cream, it’s light and fresh, she remarked — just the right amount of decadence without being too heavy. They have a rule that “if you can’t finish a slice, we have to reformat the recipe!”
Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Cake: Another yellow butter cake, this one features Belgian chocolate ganache, homemade sea-salt caramel, and whipped pastry cream, finished with sea-salt buttercream frosting and then drizzled generously with chocolate. “It’s just amazing,” Gillian said.