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. 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!

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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 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 (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

pineapple upside down cake

295 Comments

  1. Turned out awesome, fluffy and sweet!

  2. What are the reasons for the updated recipe? And how is it different? I have used the old recipe countless times and have gotten so requests for more than I’m willing to make. I always mention this site, even send them links to the recipe.

    I’ll be making this cake again, and I’m wondering if I should try the new recipe or leave well enough alone.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Allie, the improved pineapple upside down cake recipe is much softer than the original. We’re using the same ingredients in the updated cake batter – just in different forms, ratios, and amounts. Sally shares more on the differences and the recipe testing in the blog post, if you’re interested. We also have the full version of the old recipe in the recipe notes if you’d prefer to use that version. Glad to hear you enjoy this cake!

  3. I have been making this recipe for my husbands birthday for the last 5 years. Last year I made the old recipe uncertain of the new one. We’re gonna try it this year and I’m super excited! I know we’re gonna love it as much as the old one!

  4. Deborah Otway says:

    Hi Sally your recipies are all excellent! I’ve made this pineapple upside down cake about 11 times now, for different family events. It’s always the favourite dessert and there are never any left overs. Thank you so much for sharing .

  5. Can this recipe be used as cupcakes?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jon, you can certainly turn these into cupcakes, dividing the topping and batter evenly among your cupcake pan. We’re unsure of the exact bake time, but it should be about 18-20 minutes. Let us know how they turn out for you!

  6. Made this for the first time. I think it’s lovely, my husband says it’s supposed to be messy so next time I’ll try your old recipe. Thank you for allowing these different recipes to coexist.

  7. Wow. Thanks so much for your explanation as to why a cake batter used for pineapple upside down cakes will always be denser than if you baked it without the pineapple topping. You cannot imagine how many different cake recipes I used for pineapple upside down cakes which turned out with a much denser texture. I kept wondering why and thought I was just not good at making pineapple upside down cakes. Now I know to expect the cake to be denser. I will try your recipe soon. Thanks.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So glad you found this information helpful, Regine. Can’t wait to hear how you like our version!

  8. Delicious!

  9. The cake batter tastes heavenly. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  10. Susan Sentman says:

    Loved this recipe for Sally! The cake is much lighter, more stable with the pineapple and oh sooo tasty! I used fresh pineapple and your recipe as quoted. EXCELLENT, thank you Sally. You never disappoint!

  11. Can you also grill the pineapple slices before placing the in the baking dish? That was going to be my plan but after reading your explanation of the pineapple slices offering the only pineapple juice now I wonder if putting them on the grill will dry them out too much and now you loose the pineapple flavor throughout the cake (flavor on on top). Do you have any advice or experience with grilling the rings before hand? I’m exciting to try the recipe out in a few weeks for my dad’s 60th bday. This is the cake famous for 1961 so it’s going to be the center of the celebration.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tiffany! Grilled pineapple is SO tasty. We haven’t tested grilling the pineapple first for this recipe, but the delicious flavor that pineapple gets from cooking on the grill happens right in the pan as this cake bakes. We hope your dad loves his cake – we would love to hear how it goes!

      1. This recipe is a winner! Much lighter than the usual pineapple upside-down cake. I made mine with fresh roasted pineapple. The concentrated pineapple flavor was divine. The slightly dryer slices did not have a negative effect on the texture of the cake. It came out moist and fluffy. I think grilling instead of roasting the pineapple would be really amazing. Such a good idea!

      2. I made it for my dad’s bday and everyone went wild for it! it has the sweetness I remember as a child but it’s kicked up in sophistication with using a white cake base and it helps cut the (typically thought of) over sweetness. I like how tender yet supportive it was to the pineapple topping. I didn’t grill the ring ahead of time but I’m glad I didn’t because, as you mention, they’re caramelized in the pan and it would have overpowered the effort to grill them. I have two friends who saw the pictures and have requested this cake for their birthday so I’ll be making this two more times this year. I followed all your directions, read your tips thoroughly and it turned out perfect!

  12. Can this be used in a budnt pan?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi James, 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!

  13. Making this cake for the second time as the first was when my kids, parents and sister visited and my hubby was sad he only got one piece!!! Kids took leftover cake home ( as always) he will be so happy he doesn’t have to share

  14. Made this exactly as written and it was PHENOMENAL. I think the step of refrigerating the pan once you get the topping in there is so simple but so brilliant, and a total game-changer for when you add that batter. Cake was tender and the whole thing is so moist and delicious. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!! (Now I’m curious to try your previous version to compare/contrast, haha!)

  15. Julie P. Weeks says:

    My (Nectarine) upside down cake cake is way too sweet! Such a disappointment, but next time I’ll know better. Most recipes call for less sugar, so I’m curious – especially since pineapple is very sweet – as to why you’ve chosen to make this sweeter. Has anyone else commented on this?

  16. Yolanda F. Del Rio says:

    Loved your recipe, the cake was beautiful, moist and delicious. Thank you!

  17. Jennifer Cook says:

    Yum! This was a huge hit!

  18. Very delicious! I used a 8×2 cake pan. Used all the batter and baked it the full time (48 minutes). No overflow what so ever. The only thing was that I had to squish the pineapple rings to make them fit in the pan and I think they expanded and pulled at the cake a little when I turned it out of the pan. No big deal just aesthetically less pleasing.

  19. Can this recipe convert to a 1/2 sheet pan and most importantly, a sugar free version. Yep, “sugar free”pineapple upside down cake for 20 people. 1/4 sheet or 1/2 sheet. Any suggestions? Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Linda, 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. We’d love to help converting it to sugar-free, but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes. Thank you!

  20. JONATHON WISNOSKI says:

    Made a double recipe is a tall tube cake pan, took about double the time. If like me the toothpick test never works, if the toothpick comes out wet like it dipped it in water, it is not done yet.

  21. Soooooooo good! The is the first (and only) recipe I’ve tried and no need to try another. Perfect. Possibly my new favourite cake!!!

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tanya, We are so glad you loved this!

  22. Hi! Will the texture of the finished product permit for stacking layers and not crumbling? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Miranda, We don’t recommend stacking this cake. It’s very heavy so it does work best as a single layer cake. If you are looking for a pineapple layer cake we recommend this Pineapple Coconut Cake (with or without the coconut).

  23. Michele Young says:

    I did not like this recipe at all. It was like an angel food cake with pineapple on it. So disappointing. I threw it away. Would not make it again. Every pineapple upside down cake I have ever had is rich and moist and gooey. This was not. It was for my sons birthday and he ate it but I could tell he was disappointed as well.

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