Calcined ceramic powder is made by blending a precursor powder with a form of carbon such as carbon black and heating the blend in an oxygenated atmosphere. The carbon acts as a separator, preventing coalescence of the percursor powder during the calcining process. The blend is characterized by the presence of interstitial spacing between the particles of the carbon powder and the precursor powder. The carbon is eventually oxidized to carbon dioxide and/or carbon monoxide and volatilizes as such, leaving behind the calcined ceramic powder. In a preferred embodiment, the heating is effected by microwave radiation. The carbon absorbs the microwave radiation, heating up the precursor powder and calcining it to form the ceramic powder. Once all the carbon has been oxidized, no more microwave radiation is absorbed, and the heating stops, making the process self-limiting.