Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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. 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!

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pineapple upside down cake

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8-10
  • 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

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 (170g) 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

pineapple upside down cake

259 Comments

  1. Hi Sally,
    Would it be possible to add carrot to the batter? My father-in-law always talks about a carrot-pineapple upside down cake his g’ma used to make. I can check elsewhere, but I love your recipes!

    1. Hi Adraine, I haven’t tested this exact recipe with carrot but I do have a Pineapple Carrot Cake that you might be interested in.

    2. Hi Sally, I make tons of your recipes and they all turn out terrific! My husband requested pineapple upside down cake for father’s day, but we’re feeding a crowd. If I want to make a 9×13, would you recommend 1.5x the ingredients or doubling? Thanks!

  2. Aishwarya Jema says:

    Amazing!!!!

    One of the best cakes I’ve tasted. And the best part is that I could bake it, just because of you.

  3. Made this last minute while visiting family. Took it right out of the oven and into the car. Reached destination in 45mins n even theN cake came oUt of the tin almost perfectly (A few bits stuck on as it’s winter here and the cake cooled pretty quick!) ! An absolute hit with the family . Incredibly light and delicious.
    Love all your recipes Sally. My go to place for baking

  4. Shea Vainio says:

    I have access to frozen pineapple tidbits through my work. Would you reccomend changing anything in this recipe if I want to use those instead of rings?

    1. Hi Shea, You can try them however 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.

  5. Hey sally! Could I use all purpose flour instead of cake flour? If so, will it be more dense?

  6. Hi Sally,

    When using canned pineapple, do you recommend slices packed in juice or in syrup? I’m worried syrup might make it turn out too sweet and/or weigh down the cake. Thanks!

    1. Hi Meredith, I like them packed in juice. But either way be sure to blot any excess liquid off the fruit as instructed in step two. Enjoy!

      1. Made this for my uncle’s birthday and it was a hit! The cake was tender and delicious, with yummy caramelized topping (I used the dark brown sugar). I told everyone who asked where I found the recipe. Thank you Sally!

  7. Made this in an 8×8 Pyrex because I was afraid of overflow and used fresh cherry halves. It turned out soo good! I paired it with homemade vanilla rum ice cream which turned out to be THE BEST flavor combo.

  8. phyllis berkey says:

    Can a square pan be used instead of a round one?

    1. This should work in a 9 inch square pan (an 8 inch square is too small).

  9. Dalene Herbert says:

    Made this and it turned out perfect! Took some to the neighbor and she was wowed!

  10. Hi Sally

    I remember this from my childhood too.
    Can I use the same recipe & cook in a muffin pan so they are individual ones?
    how long would you recommend cooking it for in that case?
    many thanks
    Dorothy

    1. I don’t see why not! I’m unsure of the bake time needed for cupcakes but use a toothpick to check for doneness.

  11. Hi Sally,
    I tried out this recipe and the cake turned out perfect. Just one query.
    I used fresh pineapple rings for the topping. Is that the reason my cake looked brown on the top? Your cake picture looks so good (the pineapple has a lovely yellow post baking while mine looked brown).
    Any suggestions?

    1. I’m so glad that you still enjoyed the cake, Sharon! The color could definitely be the difference between fresh and canned pineapple, especially if your fresh pineapple was on the drier side.

      1. Thanks Sally for the quick reply. Yes, I bought fresh pineapple and it was turning brown after I cut it for the cake. Some say, one shd keep the baking tin containing the pineapple topping mix in the refrigerator while u prepare the cake batter.
        Btw..I couldn’t locate the baking temperature in your recipe. Can u chk?

  12. Sharon Fernandes says:

    Hi Sally..I liked yr recipe so much, that I decided to make it for the second time, but this time I tried to do cupcakes. However the batter did not rise well and therefore the cupcakes were uncooked at the bottom, even after baking for 40 minutes..I tried putting them back in the oven then the top got burnt. I dont know what went wrong. Pls help with a pineapple upside down cupcake recipe.

    1. Hi Sharon! That’s quite a long time for cupcakes. Did you alter the recipe at all? While I’ve never used this recipe to make cupcakes before, following the instructions in this recipe should work. (Just use the cake batter from here.) https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/pineapple-upside-down-cupcakes/

  13. Michelle RIddle says:

    Hello Sally! Beautiful cake! I will be making it tomorrow for my dads 72nd birthday it is his favorite! I love to play around with new recipes and stumbled upon this one, I was wondering, I have creme fraiche and buttermilk as opposed to sour cream and milk in my fridge already, could I use those in place of each other, the acidity is slightly different but what are your thoughts? Thank you!

    1. Hi Michelle, thank you! I recommend using buttermilk to replace both the sour cream and whole milk. (2/3 cup total.) No need to use the creme fraiche.

  14. Making for a crowd; can I double for 9×13?

    1. Hi Stefanie, I fear there will be way too much cake batter if you doubled the recipe for one 9×13 pan. I would double 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). I’m unsure of the bake time for the 9×13 cake.

      1. So I went for it! Doubled the recipe exactly but used 1/4 sheet cake pan. Perfect amount of every thing! It was fantastic! Baked it for 40 minutes at 375 because my oven runs a little on the cold side. Perfection! Even took a picture

  15. Hi Sally, would it be okay for me to use regular yellow cake batter from the box? Instead of from scratch

  16. Mariah Dabaghchian says:

    I made the “old recipe” version of this (with Splenda instead of sugar as I have diabetics in the family). The family loved it!

  17. I’ve been making your old recipe for my husbands birthday every year for the last 4 years. I hope this new recipe is just as good if not better! This is the only time I make this for him and the only recipe I use 🙂

  18. I made it .it came really nice . Thank you very much for sharing such a wonderful recipe.

  19. Can i use a regular 9 inch cake pan for the upside down cake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can use a 9×2 inch pie dish or round cake pan.

  20. I have made this cake a bunch of times, and it is perfection. *chef’s kiss*

    Even people in the family who say they don’t like pineapple rave about this cake. The crumb is so tender and shockingly light. I know you said it would be less dense, but I kinda didn’t believe you because this type of cake is always a wet sloppy brick.

    Oh.
    My.
    Gosh.

    Thank you for this new addition to my repertoire! It was exactly as advertised!

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