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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Hello, and welcome! Please, take a seat. Today in arts and crafts, we'll be making paper cones. What you do after that is up to you—with this versatile technique under your belt, you'll be able to effortlessly produce: bird costumes (specifically, beaks), french fry holders, and party hats galore. Also, a one-material, five-minute DIY tool for piping frostings and melted chocolate. In other words, an incredibly handy, not to mention FUN, tool in any intrepid home cook's arsenal.

Now, if you've ever piped frosting out of, say, a zipper-lock bag, you may be wondering why you should bother with this whole cone business. And to a certain degree, you'd be right—if you don't have a pastry bag and tip, a Ziplock bag with a corner snipped off will do you just fine. But when it comes to melted chocolate, you need something a little more firm and insulated to get your decorating work underway. Enter the cornet—yes, it's just a fancy (read: French) word for a cone —your quick 'n' easy, make-it-anywhere, take-it-anywhere piping pal. And as you'll soon see, making four cornets is just as easy as making one, which is why you'll always have extras and might as well use 'em for your other piping needs, too.

Making the Cornet

Shall we get on with it? Here's what you'll need to start (and finish) your very own paper cone:

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  • A rectangular sheet of parchment paper; the exact proportion doesn't matter as long as it's a not-too-long rectangle. It's all good—whatever you do, don't stress!
  • Two hands
  • A knife, scissors, or some not-chewed-to-the-quick fingernails

Fold the paper in half

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Turn the parchment so that it is in a portrait (not landscape) orientation. Fold it in half widthwise (towards you).

Cut along the crease

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You can get all bad-ass (like me!) and use a knife, take the scissor route, or just make a real good crease and tear that baby up. Set aside one of the rectangles; you can follow the next steps with it later to make another cornet.

Fold diagonally

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Position the parchment in a landscape orientation in front of you and fold the paper diagonally so that the crease connects the opposite corners—I find it easiest to start by lifting the bottom-right corner, but you can do the opposite if you prefer; it won't make a difference.

Cut along the crease

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Same as before, just slice the paper along your crease and set aside one of the halves, it doesn't matter which.

Behold, a triangle!

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Look at that! You made that! Revel in it. Then orient it so that the triangle's longest side (the hypotenuse, for you all geometry whizzes out there) is nearest you, and the shortest side is on the right.

Create the cone's tip

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Lift the right corner of the triangle and gently fold it over so that the bend forms a vertical line that runs from the triangle's top corner down to the base; using your finger, make a firm crease only at the base of this fold (do not make a full crease along this fold's entire length). This will be ultimately the point of your cone.

Then unfold the paper to its original position.

Start Rolling

Lift the right corner again, this time bringing the corner in line with the top of the triangle and the crease you just made. Don't crease the edge; just line things up. Now fold it slightly under itself to form a cone shape.

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Feeling okay? Good. You're doing great.

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The first couple of times you do this, it may pop up or unravel. If this is your first time making a cornet, you may want to apply a small piece of Scotch tape to the cone's inner edge, just to keep things stable while you get the hang of things.

Bring the left corner around

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Holding the cone in one hand, begin winding the left section of the triangle around the cone with the other hand (to keep things nice and clear, we shot this flat on the table. You'll probably want to pick up your cone, though—it'll be a lot easier to control.)

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As you roll, try to keep the innermost edge vertical (or tape it up!) and the point of the cone as tight and pointy as possible—if you look down into the cone, you shouldn't be able to see any light coming through the point.

Tuck 'er in

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Once it's almost fully wrapped around the cone, that left corner will leave you with a nice little point to tuck into the cone's opening. Give it a good crease and it'll hold your creation together. This should stay put, but if you have trouble, another piece of tape will secure it.

Give yourself a nice pat on the back! You did it!

Using the Cornet

Prepare Your Workspace

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If you're just learning how to work with chocolate, I highly recommend a few practice rounds on a spare sheet of parchment paper. Just tape it down to keep it from flapping around. You can practice with melted chocolate, frosting, or even toothpaste!

Fill 'er up

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Fill the cone with your chocolate (or frosting). Go no more than two-thirds of the way up. Unless you want a gross, overflowy accident.

Seal the Cone

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Fold the opening over at least twice to close the cone.

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If your cone starts pouring chocolate out of the point, it means it wasn't rolled tightly enough. If it's just dripping, it may be fine—just skip the next step.

Snip!

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With a pair of scissors, snip off the very tip of the cone—just the tip. Start very, very small; you can always widen the opening, but once it's cut, there's no going back.

Write/Draw/Make a Mess!

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I'll be honest with you—I'm still not exactly gifted at writing with chocolate. It takes a lot of practice to develop the kind of control that professional pastry chefs have at their command. But once you've got the basics down, you'll be able to decorate birthday cakes and cookies and your poor, innocent sleeping boyfriend's face.

A few tips for newbies:

  • Slow and steady: Stand at a countertop and support your wrist with your other hand, guiding it in slow, rounded motions. Stop regularly to rest and keep from shaking. That said, chocolate's actually pretty forgiving, so if you have a gap or wobble in your writing or drawing, just go back over it.
  • Don't squeeze: Gravity will be nearly enough to guide the chocolate out of the cone. You may need to exert some gentle pressure, but a squeeze will cause it to gush out or, at the very least, leave you with uneven decoration.
  • Have fun: This is the most important lesson I can impart. Because if you're not having fun, what's the goddamn point?
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