In her own words, Gillian Muralles has been steering clear of gluten long before “gluten was a thing.”

She was a teenager in 2002 when a doctor diagnosed her with celiac disease, which means she can’t digest the gluten protein found in wheat products such as bread and pasta without becoming sick.

Gluten is also a key component of baking just about anything, which juxtaposes nicely with Muralles’ career as a pastry chef and custom-cake decorator extraordinaire.

Last month, she opened Lilac Pâtisserie bakery and café in downtown Santa Barbara with her baker husband, Alam, as a safe haven for fellow celiac sufferers.

Everything at the bakery is made without gluten and the worry that machines haven’t been properly cleaned.

“I definitely have had a lot of bad things to know these are really good,” she said with a laugh, silently admiring the couple’s menu of pastries, cakes, pies, tarts, coffee and more on a recent afternoon.

Since Lilac Pâtisserie is one of the first local eateries to go gluten-free, customers window-shopping inside 1017 State St. inevitably have questions.

In the span of 30 minutes, two people have skeptically asked, “Is everything gluten free?”

Gluten-free became a buzzword for foodies within the past eight years, Muralles said.

The phrase is frequently seen on grocery store packaging, and some people have latched onto the craze believing it’s healthier to quit gluten, when the recipes were predominantly developed to help people like Muralles safely enjoy some of their favorite foods.

The Muralleses have been perfecting gluten-less recipes for years while working in Southern California bakeries before making the move to Santa Barbara two years ago.

“Cakes are definitely our pièce de résistance,” she said, explaining that she and Alam were on a custom-made cake team in LA, with Alam as the icing expert.

Because gluten is typically what helps hold baked goods together, Muralles has to make her own flour blends, which involve more liquid and longer baking times at lower temperatures.

“We can do a lot of crazy stuff with cake,” she said, like the time they made a four-foot tall rocket-shaped birthday cake.

The 28-year-olds hope to bake more cakes for weddings and special events, having already received rave reviews from family, friends and clients.

They also plan to roll out a full lunch menu of soups, salads and sandwiches later this year and to bake their own fresh bread on site.

“We are really focused on this,” Muralles said. “We’re so happy.”

Lilac Pâtisserie prides itself on dedication to gluten-free fare, but Muralles said she wants people to pick the café based on taste first — non-gluten options second.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.