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This pineapple upside down cake is soft and buttery with a caramelized brown sugar pineapple & cherry topping. Its juices seep down into the cake, adding even more luscious flavor and texture. A classic favorite using canned pineapple and maraschino cherries, this retro cake is served upside down and perfect any time of year.

pineapple upside down cake

I love learning in the kitchen and I’m always working hard to improve my skill. With constant practice comes the opportunity to bring you the best recipes I can. This is an exciting post!

Improved Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe – Read the Difference

I developed and published a pineapple upside down cake recipe several years ago. It’s certainly loved by many, but the cake is prone to overflowing because there’s quite a lot of batter. Additionally, it can taste overly wet and the instructions were never written very clearly. As a cookbook author and baker, I’ve certainly improved my craft over the years! Though I kept the original recipe written in the notes below, I want to share my new and improved version with you.

My improved pineapple upside down cake recipe, written below, is much softer than my original. Using creamed butter instead of melted, cake flour instead of all-purpose flour, all white sugar instead of brown sugar + white, and using egg whites guarantees a huge textural difference. I adapted it from my white cake. Additionally, we’ll skip the pineapple juice in the cake batter because it often produces a wet crumb. (There’s plenty of pineapple flavor in the topping!) Finally, my new recipe doesn’t yield as much cake batter, so we don’t have to worry about overflowing.

The pineapple cherry topping remains the same. You don’t mess with perfection. 😉

  • Old Cake Recipe (in notes below): Overly heavy, wet, overflowed
  • New Cake Recipe (below): Softer, pleasantly moist, reduced amount of batter

We’re using the same ingredients in my updated cake batter– just in different forms, ratios, and amounts. Baking is truly a science and I’m happy to continue to deliver you well tested and improved recipes!

pineapple upside down cake

Regular Cake Ingredients, Only Reduced

  • Cake Flour: Lighter than all-purpose flour, cake flour produces a soft crumb.
  • Baking Powder & Baking Soda: The two add plenty of lift under the heavy topping.
  • Salt: Balances the sweetness.
  • Butter: Instead of melted butter, use 6 Tablespoons of softened butter. (Not the whole stick, though you do need more for the topping.) Creaming butter and sugar guarantees a buttery soft crumb. It’s how I prepare my vanilla cupcakes, too.
  • Sugar: White granulated sugar sweetens and tenderizes the cake. There’s brown sugar in the topping to provide essential flavor!
  • Egg Whites: Don’t let yolks weigh down a cake that’s already weighed down by the fruit topping. After all my recipe testing, I now swear by just egg whites here. So there’s no waste, here are my recipes using egg yolks.
  • Vanilla Extract: Flavor.
  • Sour Cream: Along with cake flour and egg whites, sour cream promises a tender cake crumb. Plain yogurt works in a pinch.
  • Milk: Liquid is key in most cakes because it thins out the batter.

I appreciate that the cake, in general, is smaller and not as overwhelming. Same with my beloved apple upside down cake. Fewer ingredients, fewer leftovers!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Topping

I didn’t change my original topping recipe. Sticking with tradition, the topping includes canned pineapple rings, maraschino cherries, butter, and brown sugar. I always use 10 pineapple rings (some are halved for the sides), which is one 20 ounce can. Feel free to use fresh pineapple and cherries. Canned pineapple chunks will be a little messy and could spill down the sides when you invert the cake, so proceed with caution!

  • My #1 Tip for the Topping: Blot the wet pineapples and maraschino cherries before using. The more liquid in the fruit, the more liquid that won’t “set.” Excess liquid creates an unpleasantly wet cake.

I know you’ll appreciate this too: pineapple upside down cake is basically already frosted. There’s no extra decoration required; the garnish is literally baked into the cake!

pineapple upside down cake

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Video Tutorial:

Overview: How to Make the Best Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This classic pineapple upside down cake is buttery rich and the sweet fruit topping is downright irresistible. Let me walk you through each step so you understand the process.

  1. Prepare the topping: Melt the butter, pour into an un-greased cake pan or pie dish, sprinkle with brown sugar, then arrange the blotted pineapple rings and maraschino cherries as you see in my photos and video tutorial. I always refrigerate the topping as I prepare the cake batter– this helps solidify the designed arrangement underneath the wet cake batter.
  2. Prepare the cake batter: Whisk the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg whites and vanilla, then the sour cream. Pour the dry into the wet ingredients, pour in the milk, then beat to combine. You’ll have about 2 cups of cake batter and it’s very straightforward to prepare.
  3. Spread over topping: Pour and spread the cake batter over the chilled topping.
  4. Bake: Because of the wet bottom layer (which is the topping), the cake takes much longer than a typical 1 layer cake. Its juices will bubble up the sides, creating these incredible caramelized edges. (They’re so good!) With upside down cakes, it’s always good practice to place a baking pan or sheet on a lower rack to catch any juices should they splatter over the edges.
  5. Cool: Cool the cake for 20 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Inverting any sooner will create a seeping mess– we want the topping to “set” as much as it can. You can serve this cake warm, though it slices much better if you let it cool completely at room temperature first.
brown sugar pineapple upside down cake topping
cake batter on top of pineapples
bottom of pineapple upside down cake
pineapple upside down cake

Expect a Dense Cake

I’ve been making pineapple upside down cake since I could hold a spatula. Besides carrot cake, it’s my favorite cake variety. I’ve made hundreds of versions, or so it seems, and I say with 100% certainty that this cake will always be on the denser side. (Unless you are using store-bought cake mix.) You see, the cake is served upside down. The weight of the topping, which is the bottom of the cake as it bakes, weighs down the crumb beneath it. Pineapple upside down cake will never be as light and airy as white cake. If you were to make this exact cake batter and serve it right-side-up, the cake would taste much airier.

Does that make sense?

While my pineapple upside down cake is mega soft and not nearly as dense as, say, pound cake, it’s not overly light either. I know you’ll love its unique texture, especially paired with the brown sugar caramelized fruit topping. Let me know how you like it!

Print
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overhead image of pineapple upside down cake on a white serving plate

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 810 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Updated in 2020, this is my favorite recipe for traditional pineapple upside down cake. For best success, read the recipe and recipe notes before beginning.


Ingredients

Scale

Topping

  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 810 pineapple slices (see note)*
  • 1520 maraschino cherries (see note)*

Cake

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (177g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80gsour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk, at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Prepare topping first: Pour 1/4 cup melted butter into an ungreased 9×2 inch pie dish or round cake pan. (Make sure the pan is 2 inches deep. I recommend this pie dish, which is 1.8 inches deep but I never have an overflow issue.) Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter. Blot any excess liquid off the fruit with a clean towel or paper towel. (The wetter the fruit, the more likely the cake could overflow or the topping could seep over the sides when inverted.) Arrange about 6-7 blotted pineapple slices and all the cherries on top of the brown sugar. I like to halve 3 pineapple rings and arrange them around the sides of the pan, too. See my photo and video above for a visual of the arranged topping. Place pan in the refrigerator for a few minutes as you prepare the cake batter. This helps solidify or “set” the topping’s arrangement.
  3. Make the cake batter: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  4. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until creamed together, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On high speed, beat in the egg whites until combined, then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer onto low speed and as the mixer runs, slowly pour in the milk. Beat on low speed just until all of the ingredients are combined. Do not over-mix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  5. Remove topping from the refrigerator. Pour and spread cake batter evenly over topping.
  6. Bake for 43-48 minutes, tenting foil on top of the cake halfway through bake time to prevent the top from over-browning before the center has a chance to fully cook. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean– a couple moist crumbs are OK. Don’t be alarmed if your cake takes longer or if the cake rises up and sticks to the foil. (We serve the cake upside down anyway!)
  7. Remove cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack for just 20 minutes. Invert the slightly cooled cake onto a cake stand or serving plate. Some of the juices from the topping will seep over the sides– that’s ok. You can slice and serve the cake warm, but the slices will be messy. I find it’s best to cool the cake completely at room temperature before slicing and serving. Do not refrigerate the cake to speed up the cooling process because it could end up tasting overly dense.
  8. Cover leftover slices and store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature. I don’t recommend freezing the cake as a whole because the topping arrangement doesn’t thaw very nicely. See make ahead instructions below.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: You can refrigerate the topping in step 2 for up to 1 day. If refrigerating for longer than 1 hour, cover it tightly. Other than that, this isn’t the best cake to make ahead of time or freeze because the pineapples will settle down into the cake– while still tasty, the presentation won’t be as pleasing. You can, however, prepare the wet ingredients (cover and refrigerate) and dry ingredients (cover at room temperature) separately up to 1 day ahead of time, then continue with the recipe the next day. Let the wet ingredients come to room temperature before mixing.
  2. Old Recipe: The current cake batter recipe was updated in 2020. If you loved the old cake batter recipe, originally published in 2014, here it is: The topping recipe is the same. Prepare the recipe above through step 2. For the cake batter, whisk 1 and 2/3 cups (210g) all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk 1/2 cup (115g) melted unsalted butter, 3/4 cup (150g) packed light brown sugar, 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar, 1 large egg, 1/4 cup (60g) yogurt or sour cream, 1/2 cup (120ml) milk, 1/4 cup (60ml) pineapple juice, and 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract together. Whisk wet and dry ingredients together until smooth. Continue with step 5 in the recipe above.
  3. Pineapple & Cherries: Traditional recipes use canned pineapple and maraschino cherries. I recommend 1 20 ounce can of pineapple rings/slices, which usually holds 10 rings/slices. You can use fresh pineapple rings/slices and fresh cherries if desired. If using fresh cherries, I recommend halving them. Blot excess liquid off the fresh fruit just as I instruct in step 2. Fresh or canned pineapple chunks, tidbits, and/or crushed pineapple will create a messy topping that could spill over the sides when the cake is inverted. I recommend rings/slices because they are larger.
  4. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this 2x, then remove 1/2 cup since you need 1 and 1/2 cups in this recipe.
  5. Sour Cream & Milk: Full fat sour cream and whole milk are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead of the sour cream, though the cake may not taste as tender. Same goes with a lower fat or nondairy milk.
  6. Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.

Keywords: pineapple upside down cake, cake

slice of pineapple upside down cake

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I have had great success with all of your recipes and this one is no different. The cake mix came out smelling and tasting heavenly, I did have a small issue with it sticking to the pan and it cracked a little when I did finally get it out, but I think that’s more an issue with the pan I used and my poor technique at trying to get it out. So delicious though, the cake is dense but still very moist and flavorful. Definitely plan on making this again, thank you for all your amazing recipes!

    1. This is the best Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe. Came out perfectly. Thanks a ton.

  2. I have never made a Pineapple Upside-down Cake before but your recipe and hints made it easy. It turned out fabulous and tasted like heaven! Thank you so much for your website and sharing your knowledge!

  3. I’ve tried many of your recipes and they all came out well, but this was the best! The crumb was light , the pineapple and cherries just sweet enough, and the cake looked divine! Thank you so much for sharing. I do have a couple of questions – does anything change if I bake this in a bundt pan? Also, how can I get some pineapple flavor in the cake? Best, Sri

    1. Hi Sri, thank you for trying this recipe. We’re so glad you enjoyed it! A Bundt pan would work. You may want to cool it for a little longer before inverting it. The bake time might be a little shorter, but it’s hard for us to say without testing it. Let us know how it goes!

  4. Creamed butter- there is no explanation of howto get creamed butter and everything I read says that it is butter incorporated with sugar. If that is it how much sugar?

    1. Hi Patricia! You will cream together the butter and sugar in step 4: “Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until creamed together, about 1 minute.” You will want to use the amounts listed in the ingredient list: 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar. Hope this helps!

  5. I made this recipe and a cake mix version at the same time as I wanted to figure out what version would be better (I never made a pineapple upside cake before). This was so much better than the cake mix version. I used a butter vanilla flavoring instead of regular vanilla and it was delicious. I will definitely make it again, perhaps next time I will make just the cake without the pineapple topping and add streusel to the top before baking instead.

  6. Sally,
    I live in Italy and have trouble finding real sour cream! Is it alright to use 5% fage greek yogurt in this case?

    Thanks a million,
    Lydia

    1. Hi Lydia, absolutely, that will work in a pinch. Enjoy!

  7. I made this fabulous cake yesterday for a dinner at my house with my husband’s relatives. (I had made pineapple upside down cake twice before but was not happy with either of those recipes, neither of which was Sally’s. Those cakes were tasteless.) When I saw Sally’s recipe using sour cream, I was intrigued. My problem? Four of the people at my table can’t have dairy. No butter. No sour cream. No whole milk. Instead, I needed to use nondairy sour cream, nondairy Buttery from Wegmans, and Lactaid whole milk. I wasn’t sure if this would work, but it turned out great! It was a breeze to make. The cake was light and delicious. I used fresh pineapple rings–I have a very cool heavy-duty metal corer that creates a spiral of pineapple slices–which I blotted dry on cotton kitchen towels. My guests were thrilled and so was I.

  8. I’m excited to try this for a ladies event at church on Friday. I was thinking of making them into cupcakes to make serving them easier. What, if any, tweaks would you make and how long would you bake them for? Thanks in advance!

    1. If your planning on making them into cupcakes I’d probably bake them at the same temp for about 18-24 minutes or somewhere around there til the tooth pick comes out clean when checking them

  9. I can’t find any « contact us » for this site so I’ll my comment here on your website. The recipes I’ve tried so far were great and I have 2 cakes in the oven from this site right now. However, the site is extremely buggy with Safari on iPad. It constantly crashes. I will not do more recipes on this site until this is fixed.

  10. Hey Sally!
    Tried this recipe yesterday and the cake turned out delicious!
    I did mess up as I forgot to add the milk, and was a bit disappointed with myself…. Despite that it was delicious!!
    Thank you for sharing ❤️

  11. The dark sugar kind of ruined it for me. I should have known better. I’m sure it will taste nice but looks super dark. Nothing like the bright thing in the picture

    1. I have a suggestion. Not sure if you used dark brown sugar or not but if you did try light brown sugar next time. I’m sure the results will be more pleasing.

  12. Love this recipe. Made it last year for Easter and made it again this year. Wondering if it making it the night before is considered making it ahead of time? Should be fine for tomorrow after, no? It’s not even 24 hours.

    1. Hi Joanna, the pineapples may sink into the cake if left overnight. It will still taste great but may not look as nice as you would like. See recipe notes for our recommend make ahead instructions!

  13. I made this for Easter dinner. It was a hit! To reduce sugar I used Splenda in place of the sugar in the cake, and I used organic brown coconut sugar as a substitute for brown sugar in the topping. It came out fine.
    Next time (there will be a next time!) I am going to try using fresh instead of canned pineapple.

  14. Followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfect! Delicious caramelized flavor and texture. This was my first time making a pienapple upside down cake and I am so happy with the result! Thank you Sally, for fine tuning this recipe with helpful tips and the video walkthrough.

  15. This recipe was wonderful! I have been wanting to make a pineapple upside down cake for a while and did not hesitate to seek out your version first. I made one change – I substituted two 8oz cans of crushed pineapple for the rings. Mine went melted butter, brown sugar, an abstract design of halved cherries created by my 4yo, the pineapple (which I squeezed out as much juice as possible using a towel a la zucchini for bread), then the batter as instructed. Delicious!!!!!

  16. Thank you so much really enjoyed the recipe famous delicious. Wish I could show you the picture of it beautiful

  17. Absolutely fabulous! Going to use just the egg whites in a lot of other recipes I make. That and the sour cream gave it such a light and delicious finish. Best upside down recipe I’ve ever found. Appreciate the share!

  18. Hi Sally, I was wondering if the old recipe would make enough batter for a 10 inch cake? Or if I could use the old recipe amounts with the updated ingredients. I’m looking to make this in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Angel, The cake will be thinner in a 10 inch skillet but should turn out OK. The bake time will be a bit shorter. Let us know if you give it a try!

  19. Hi Sally, Bake many of your recipes,very good. I need to make this recipe for a crowd. Can I double it and bake in 9/13 pan? Marnie Las Vegas

    1. Hi Marnie, for a 9×13 pan, we would recommend doubling the recipe, fill the pan only about halfway with the batter and use extra for cupcakes (about 18-20 minutes bake time for the cupcakes). We’re unsure of the bake time for the 9×13 cake. Let us know how it goes!

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