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.
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!
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. 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!
Key Ingredients You Need
- 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.
- Pineapple Juice & Milk: Liquid is key in most cakes because it thins out the batter. You typically make pineapple upside down cake with canned pineapple, so use some of the liquid in the can for the cake batter.
I appreciate that the cake, in general, is smaller and not as overwhelming just like this apple upside down cake. Both are great options for smaller gatherings for Easter and other holidays. See more Easter brunch recipes and Easter dessert recipes.
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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 pineapple juice & milk, and then beat to combine. You’ll have about 2 cups of cake batter and it’s very straightforward to prepare.
- Spread over topping: Pour and spread the cake batter over the chilled topping.
- 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.
- 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.
Expect a Dense Cake
I’ve been making pineapple upside down cake since I could hold a spatula. 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?
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
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Yield: serves 8-10
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
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.
- 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 8–10 pineapple slices (see note)*
- 15–20 maraschino cherries (see note)*
- 1 and 1/2 cups (177g) cake flour (spooned & 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 (80g) sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (60ml) pineapple juice, at room temperature (use leftover from can)
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk, at room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- 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.
- Make the cake batter: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- 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 pineapple juice and 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.
- Remove topping from the refrigerator. Pour and spread cake batter evenly over topping.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): 9-Inch Pie Dish or 9-Inch Round Cake Pan | Glass Mixing Bowl | Whisk | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Cooling Rack
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read more about why room temperature ingredients are important.
Keywords: pineapple upside down cake, cake
Reader Comments & Reviews
This cake was awesome! My state is on a stay at home order so I had to make a few adjustments with ingredients I had on hand.
since I didn’t have pineapple I used a can of apricot halves. I almost went with the can of peaches but decided to use the apricots instead.
I didn’t have cake flour so added 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch to my AP flour and then sifted it.
I used greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
And I didn’t have whole milk so used 2 percent. Even with these adjustments the basic recipe for the cake batter is amazing. My husband loved it. I am trying to make at least 2 or 3 recipes a week from your website during this stay at home time.
Love all your recipes! Thank you Sally!
Came out great, I used a cast iron pan. I remember when I was a kid and an old friend of the family used to make this recipe in the cast-iron skillet and I wanted to try it that way. Came out perfect.
I’ve just made this awesome pineapple upside down and it turns fantastic ,thanks sally:)
But i use normal white sugar because i don’t have any brown and also i use more baking powder because i don’t have soda one,but it becomes great!
I tried this cake a few weeks back and it came out perfectly!!! Thank you for this recipe!!! My kids loved it.
Do you think I could add blueberries to the cake? If so, would you use fresh or frozen?
Hi Angel! I wouldn’t add blueberries to the batter because the cake would overflow. Feel free to dot them between the pineapples in addition to or in replace of the cherries. I recommend fresh.
I was so excited to see this update! I’ve made this per the previous recipe, and I’ve also doubled it and used your yellow sheet cake as the base because I wasn’t a huge fan of the old cake base recipe (I like light and fluffy cakes). The yellow cake base was good but I was looking to make this for Easter as the regular size since there are only four of us this year. I made this Friday because I couldn’t wait and we loved it! The base is much better flavor and texture and will definitely be what I use for pineapple upside down cake from now on! Im in Denver so I added 1.5 tbsp flour and decreased baking powder a smidge, and the finished cake fell slightly in the middle but not bad at all. Now I’m looking forward to trying your white cake as I want to make it funfetti for my grad school graduation next month ☺️. Since the graduation ceremony is cancelled I feel like a colorful homemade cake is warranted!
Delicious recipe! this is a treat for the sweet tooth’s like me.
Love your recipes, I always trust in a good result when I click on the link with your website! I just made the updated pineapple upside down cake and it turned out perfectly. I used a square pan, doesn’t look as nice as the round pan but worked perfectly!
Made this today and it came out really well…. I love your recipes ❤️… stay safe & keep sharing your wonderful work
Good to know that works too! I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.
Sally, my teenage son and I made this cake yesterday. We followed your recipe exactly and I’m so happy that we did because it was perfect, absolutely perfect! Since our local schools have closed in Mid March I have been lucky enough to be home with my children during these challenging times. Sally we have made 5 of your recipes and I have taken pictures of each as we are home. Believe me there are no leftovers…Each recipe has turned out fantastic, we never alter the recipe at all. I trust everything you do and I love reading the “science” behind why you do certain things with food with my children. My children and I are all learning together and you are our teacher. Thank you! Baking with your recipes and my children is my happy place as we continue to stay home to be safe during our uncertain times. I wonder what we will bake next!!
I made this cake yesterday, but without the cherries since I did not have any. This recipe is great and very tender and tasty. It’s definitely a keeper. I also made a cake using carambolas (also called starfruit) from our tree. We have so many fruit on our tree in south Florida, I’m always looking for new carambola recipes. I cut the fruit about 1/4 inch thick and used it in place of the pineapple – it came out as good as the pineapple upside down cake recipe. Thank you very much for the recipe.
I got confused. I looked up the recipe a few days ago and prepared the ingredients. Yesterday, I was ready to make this. Then the recipe looked different. LOL! I made the cake using the new recipe and it tasted really good! It looked very pretty, too. Thank you!
Haha! I’m so happy you enjoyed the new recipe, Alby 🙂 Thanks for your positive feedback!
Hello!! What would be a good way to make fresh pineapple look good on top? Fresh pineapple rings are huge compared to the canned. I used fresh today, just placed it willy nilly on top, and because I didn’t have maraschino cherries (and couldn’t go get them due to covid 19), I tried canned cherry pie filling… and because the cherries are so soft already, I placed them onto the cake after it was done!! In a pinch, do what you have to do!! The cake may have looked NOTHING like yours, but it was DELICIOUS!! Love this recipe!! Julie
I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe, Julia! Sounds delicious 🙂
Hi Sally. Thnk you for the recipe. Is it possible to change the pineapple with apples? Lucia
Hi Lucia, You could. Or you might be interested in my Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake or my Cranberry Apple Upside Down Cake.
Would you be able to use the pasteurized egg whites that come in a carton as a substitute?
Absolutely. Make sure you use the equivalent the carton says for 2 egg whites. (I know some vary.)
I have made this recipe twice and it was perfect! Seriously I would not change a thing. Thanks for the recipe!
Superb!!!! Reduced the amount of butter though……excellent!!!!
I baked this cake 2 hours ago and it is AWESOME! Very moist and fluffy with lots flavor.
I used cake flour and sour cream substitutions.
I made it in a bundt pan and added a little coconut to the topping; I was very pleased with the results, as was the birthday boy. I think I will try using half coconut flour next time and more pineapple juice instead of the milk to add a touch more pineapple flavor to the cake itself. I live in Ecuador so I have great access to fresh pineapple, and the pineapple topping (I sauteed the fresh pineapple in butter and raw sugar while I assembled the rest of the cake and prepped the pan) was truly fabulous. As were the edges (which someone commented on earlier)!! Thank you!
This recipe is exactly what I was looking for! My uncle’s favorite dessert is Pineapple Upside Down Cake, so I wanted to make one for his birthday. I’m not much of a cook, but it turned out perfectly!
I used a whole-wheat all-purpose flour, which turned out to be delicious and have out a great texture – I will DEFINITELY be making this again!
This cake was super easy to make and was delicious. My boyfriend’s father loves pineapple upside down cake and he said this one was the best ever. I made it in a cast iron skillet.
The absolute best pineapple upside down cake ever! I used coconut Greek yogurt.
I made this for my father, who is a pineapple upside down cake aficionado, and he absolutely loved it. I did too! Thanks for the great recipie, I’ve used several of your other recipes and my family and I have loved every one!
Doubled the recipe and made it for my best friend’s surprise 18th.
Birthday cakes in my experience tend to be politely nibbled as part of a party ritual, but this one dissapeared in a heartbeat! SO GOOD.
Sending you lots of love from Hong Kong Sally, the quality of your recipes, writing and photography are unbelievable, what a kickass woman you are!
Thanks so much Shim!! And thanks for reporting back. Love this cake.
Wow, this is a great cake. I had never ever made a pineapple upside down cake in my life. A friend wanted one for her 60th Bday party. I made the cake and then another batch for cup cakes. Everything turned out so good!! I especially loved the little cupcakes; I will make this recipe again & again. Just loved it. Made it exactly the way you recommended. Did need to back it a little longer. The cupcakes were exactly 20 minutes.
Thank-you for all the praise I received today from this lovely recipe!!!
Oh my goodness! I just made this cake for a family function! Totally perfect. I followed the instructions exactly and got a perfect cake. I wish I could post the pic. Yes, I most certainly took a pic of it! It’s beautiful and so delicious! Thank you Sally!!!
Hi Sally! Would you recommend using a Cast Iron Skillet ( I have the “Lodge” brand) for this recipe? I have seen other pineapple upside down cake recipes that use a cast iron skillet and was wondering if could possibly use that for this cake. Thanks!!!
Katie– yes, you can make this in your Lodge cast iron skillet!
Loved this recipe! I used wheat flour (1 1/3 cups) and thought it was still delicious though definitely heartier. Also put crushed pecans around the pineapple and cherries. I didn’t cover with foil and nothing burned or dried out, was done in about 42 minutes and was still very moist … do put a cookie sheet below as it did bubble over a normal 9″ round. Thanks Sally, can’t wait to try more of your recipes!
I cannot thank you enough for this recipe, it is simply DELICH. I baked this twice, TWO DAYS IN A ROW that how good this cake was. My cake didnt over flow because i used a different size pan slightly bigger i guess and it didnt rise much also i dont know why. Other than that it was soft and the sugar sauce formed at the bottom seeped through the cake and it made it taste even better (its making me drool now :P). I LOVED IT. thus recipe is a keeper.
THank u so so so much. 😀