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Hot Air Balloon Diaper Cake Tutorial + Free Printables!

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hot air balloon diaper cake with free printable party sign

I’ve been swooning over Hot Air Balloon party themes lately and thought it would be fun to share a DIY Hot Air Balloon Diaper Cake Tutorial (with matching free printables!).

This is such a fun, gender-neutral theme for a baby shower, and a diaper cake is always a great way to play up the theme at your party. So come fly away with me and learn how to make this one yourself. 😉

P.S. The size of this “cake” makes it a great option for baby shower table centerpieces too!

hot air balloon baby shower - printable party sign



Diaper Cake “Basket”:

  • 6″ Square Gift Box
  • 41 Diapers (I used Huggies Little Snugglers, Size 1)
  • Elastic Hair Bands or Rubber Bands
  • Patterned Paper
  • 3D adhesive dots (I use Zots)
  • Paper Adhesive (glue stick, spray adhesive, or rubber cement)
  • (4) 36″ wooden dowel rods (3/8″ diameter or similar)

Balloon Top:

  • 15″ Round Paper Lantern
  • Decorative Ribbon (one thick + 1 thin)
  • Transparent Tape

Embellishments: (optional)

  • Paint Dauber + White Craft Paint
  • Wooden Craft Hearts + Glitter (I used fine glitter)
  • Spray Adhesive
  • Glitter Sealant
  • Hot Glue
  • Printable Paper Flags


1. Make the “Basket”

First, roll the diapers tightly and secure them with elastic bands. Line your box with patterned paper, then fill the box with as many rolled diapers as you can fit. (For me it was 16.)

hot air ballon diaper cake tutorial step 1

Next, line the outside of the box with a row of vertical diapers and secure with baker’s twine or another thin trim. (The trim will be covered later, so don’t worry too much about how it looks.)

It’s helpful to have someone hold the diapers up while you wrap the twine around. If you’re working alone, loosely tie the twine around the box first and insert the diapers underneath, adjusting the “give” of the twine as you go.

Add a horizontal row of diapers on top, using 3D glue dots to secure them in place. I had to cut one rolled diaper in half for use on 2 of the sides to make the fit line up correctly.


2. Get Crafty!

You’ll be using one wide and one thin ribbon to decorate the paper lantern. I wanted to give the “cake” a handcrafted touch, so I used a small paint dauber and white craft paint to add polka dots to the ribbon.


This step was really easy, but it’s also completely optional. You can always leave the ribbon solid or simply find a patterned ribbon to use.

One tip though – if you do paint daub your own ribbon, definitely do it before you put the ribbon on the lantern, as you need a firm, flat surface for the daubing to work correctly. I learned this the hard way and had to take the ribbons off the lantern then put them back on again! So please learn from my mistake and make your experience easier. 😉

Here’s how the DIY polka dot ribbons looked while drying:

paint daub ribbon strands


3. Decorate the “Balloon”

Use tape to attach your (pre-measured and cut!) ribbon strands to the lantern. Cut the ribbons a little long so you can wrap them into the inside of the lantern and hide the ends and the tape. No one will see the inside, so feel free to be a bit messy. ;)

paper lantern hot air balloon diaper cake top


4. Embellish with Sparkly Hearts

Inspired by the heart silhouettes in the printables, I decided to embellish the lantern with glittered hearts. Hearts are always appropriate for a baby shower, and I never shy away from a chance to add a little sparkle! (for example, here and here! 😉)

diy glittered hearts

I’ve found it’s best to do the glittering over a bowl so that you can be super generous with the glitter and easily catch the extra to pour back into the bottle.

Cover each wood heart with spray adhesive, then remove the lid from the craft glitter and pour or spoon it on top. Let dry and repeat if desired for a deeper color. (I did 2 coats here).

Optional: finish with a clear coat of glitter/craft sealant. Once dry, hot glue the hearts onto the lantern.

paper lantern decorating


5. Construct the Hot Air Balloon!

First, insert the wooden dowels into each inside corner of the diaper-filled box. Trim about 6″ off the top of each dowel (unless you’re using a lantern that’s larger than 15″). Bend the dowels inward together and slide the paper lantern on top.

how to make a hot air balloon diaper cake

When you allow the dowels to contract back out, they’ll actually hold the lantern up pretty securely on their own, but you can use 3D glue dots to help keep the lantern positioned a certain way, if needed.

You can also adjust the height to your liking by further trimming the dowels.


6. Final Details & Display

Decorate the balloon with printable paper flags featuring phrases like “precious cargo” and “special delivery”! They’re included with the printables. :)

Embellish the “basket” with decorative trims. I used white tissue fringe, sparkly blue ribbon, and buttons!

For the finishing touch, display our matching free printable 8×10 party sign next to the cake.

hot air balloon diaper cake decorations

diy hot air balloon cake and free printables from hwtm

Special Delivery Party Printables

Planning a balloon-themed baby shower? Check out my Special Delivery printables. They make it so EASY to add pro designer style & personalization to your event. It’s like instant branding for your party! 🙌 Click here to shop now.

Special Delivery Baby Shower Printables


  1. Erica June 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

    So in love with this cute, original idea. By far the best i’ve seen in a long time!

    • jenn s. June 28, 2013 at 10:49 am

      Thanks so much, Erica! :)

  2. Mary June 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

    ❤❤❤ perfect, love it!! So creative !

  3. Julie Balcom July 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Your site has completely changed the way I entertain. Thank you so much for the daily inspiration and generous free printable!

    • jenn s. July 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Thank you so much for the sweet comment, Julie! Much appreciated! :)

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  5. cherie March 12, 2014 at 10:24 am

    This is so adorable! I’m not overly crafty, but I am going to try to make this for my best friend. I was curious as to where I can find a 6 inch box? Is it cardboard or wood or something else? Thanks for your help!

  6. Laura August 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    So excited to try this. I have bought everything but the box. Where did you find the box? Thank you for the idea!!

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  15. sej sao July 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Jenn S, do you think using a round diaper cake would look ok, as the base? they are 8 inches tall.

    • jenn s. July 1, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Yes – I think that should work fine. You might just need to set your paper lantern top a couple inches higher than I did here. Just eyeball the placement until you like how it looks. :)

  16. Stephanie Rogers July 29, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Where did you buy the paper lantern? I'm having trouble finding one

  17. Peggy Fowler March 24, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    I don’t see a picture

  18. Jeff Mccoy May 4, 2016 at 6:09 am

    I never seen that type themw for making daiper cake and it is really superb and look soo good, thanks for sharing with step by step instructions.

  19. Bryanna July 17, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Do you use the wire frame with the lantern as well?

    • jenn s. July 21, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Yes – I kept the wire frame inside the lantern to ensure it held its shape well. :)

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