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Miglet's, Cupcakes for All

Miglet's cupcake shop gives people on gluten-free and other special diets a chance to eat cakes, cupcakes and more.

The Holestein children burst through Miglet's cupcake shop on San Ramon Boulevard eyeing the case full of gluten-free cupcakes topped with swirls of frosting and colorful toppings.

"Piglets! Piglets!" shouts Alex, 2, with his seven-year-old sister Jessica.

Unlike other bakeries, the case at the Danville shop is filled with rows of decorated cupcakes divided and marked with their dietary sensitivities.

Alex points to a chocolate chip cupcake, while his mom emphasizes the need for it to be soy and gluten-free.

Jessica and Alex have gluten and soy sensitivities, meaning that cupcakes, cakes, cookies, breads and other baked goods are usually out. 

But Alex and Jessica can nosh on cupcakes and other sweets at Miglet's, a shop that 22-year-old Katie Alin opened in Danville last month, for a "fun outing with food," said their mother, Jeannie Lopez, who has celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that leaves her gluten intolerent. 

The idea for Miglet's started during summer 2008, when Alin volunteered her baking skills to the Taylor Family Foundation's celiac camp for kids with special gluten-free diets and other dietary needs.

Alin is not gluten intolerant, but her mom Elaine Taylor, who runs the foundation, is. As a result, Alin has seen how people with food allergies struggle to satisfy their palettes, and has spent years cooking for special diets like her mother's.

Alin opened Miglet's as a catering business, making special orders for bakeries like Mariposa and Draegers that sell gluten-free food, but don't have dedicated facilities. 

Eventually, the demand for her food was so great, that it made sense to open a store. She also takes special orders on her website.

Miglet, a cross between a monkey and a piglet, was a nickname given to Alin by a friend to describe her high energy and love of food. Her store and catering business serves cupcakes, cakes, breads and quiches in an entirely gluten-free facility. 

"Danville has a really strong community base for gluten free, there's a lot of awareness of it," Alin said. "It's an easy place to open an alternative diet place, because people are really aware and they're not turned off by it, they're intrigued."

Alin has no official culinary training but seems to have a magical touch for making food so good, that even people who can eat gluten come back for more.

Chuck Jakub from Danville made his third stop of the day at Miglet's on a recent Friday afternoon. Having already picked up three quiches and two cinnamon rolls, Jakub and his wife were buying rolls for hamburgers later that evening.

"I love it," said Jakub, who is not gluten intolerant, but his mother-in-law is. "It tastes better than regular food. The quiche is delicious!"

Alin estimates that two-thirds of her customers are gluten intolerant, while about one-third are not.

She says the taste is due in part to using the freshest ingredients, such as organic lemons and fresh made Limoncello for the lemon cupcakes, and cooking small batches.

While Miglet's has proven itself to be a lucrative business opportunity for Alin, the goal to maximize profits is outweighed by her desire to help the community.

Many parents whose kids have celiac disease or other food allergies wish their kids could eat a store bought cake for their birthday. With Miglet's they can do that.

Lori Crowley of San Ramon, says her 7-year-old son Aidan eats gluten-free because of a digestive intolerance. In the past Crowley spent hours baking a gluten-free cake for his birthday.

"It's sad they don't get to do what the other kids do, and they're kind of ostracized as a result," said Crowley. "I remember when Aidan came home from his first party with a gluten-free cake, he talked about it for days."

She is looking forward to ordering a professionally decorated birthday cake from Miglet's that Aidan can eat, and other kids will like.

Said Crowley: "Something like this really makes a huge difference for these kids."

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