[Chef Joanne] Chang had appeared before the class earlier that semester and talked about the chemistry behind what makes cakes rise. As McCallum stared off into the distance, thinking about cake, he happened to notice someone spraying whipped cream from a can.
That’s when the 20-year-old from Louisiana had his eureka moment: cake from a can.
McCallum wondered if he could borrow the technology from the whipped cream can and create a similar delivery mechanism for cake batter, in which an accelerant releases air bubbles inside the batter, allowing the cake to rise without the need for baking soda and baking powder.
To his surprise, it worked.
At first, McCallum, who will be entering his junior year (he had the idea as a freshman), was just happy to have come up with a clever idea for class. When he walked into the dining hall one day, carrying something wrapped in foil that he “made in the lab,” his friends didn’t show much interest in eating it. But Brooke Nowakowski, a 20-year-old classmate from Utah who would soon become his girlfriend, thought he was missing the potential.
“He was just like, ‘Cool. Lab project,’ ” Nowakowski said. “But I thought it could go somewhere.”
The two perfected the recipe through trial and error in McCallum’s dorm kitchen, and after searching high and low to be sure no one had done it before, they decided to take it to market. They are now in the process of patenting a product they call Spray Cake. ...
You can make it in the microwave. For a cupcake, it takes about 30 seconds and you’re done. For a whole cake, it takes no more than a minute. And they say it has the same mouth feel as it does when cooked in a traditional oven (where, they say, it will cook much faster than a traditional batter because the batter has essentially already risen).
--Billy Baker, Boston Globe, on the unpredictability of how great inspiration arrives