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

253 Comments

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  1. This turned out to be the most beautiful pineapple upside down cake I’ve ever made! I did have a problem with the center of the cake – it didn’t cook much and I think the foil was the problem. The foil did stick so perhaps I should have tented it more. I removed it and the cake seemed done in center with an additional 5-10 minutes, however, the center was still a bit gummy. My husband loved it though so I’ll definitely make again and think It will be a wonderful addition at my family Easter brunch. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Vicki! I’m happy this cake was loved – try leaving it in for a few minutes longer next time. That should help. It’s a great Easter and/or brunch recipe for sure.

  2. I’ve made this cake twice now, it is so good!! Thank you for the recipe… I think it’s a new favorite at our house.

  3. OMG I *just* made this and it turned out beautifully. BTW…I am typing this from the kitchen island with a mouthful of AMAZING pineapple upside down cake. Thank you!!!! Your recipes are so easy to follow and your hints make everything even better.

  4. Sally – do you think that this could be adapted for a 9×13 pan?

    Just discovered your blog, and there are WAY too many recipes that I want to try! Thanks for sharing them.

    1. Hi Monika! If you double this recipe, it will fit into a 9×13 pan and then some. Fill the pan halfway with the cake batter and use any extra batter fora couple cupcakes on the side. I’m unsure of the exact baking time – over 50 minutes I’m guessing.

      1. Just reporting back that the double recipe in a 9×13 was a success! I also got 6 delicious cupcakes out of the deal. I love the brown sugar and butter flavors in this recipe.

      2. Hi Monica – how long did you leave your 9×13 version in the oven? Thanks!

  5. SALLLLLEEEEEE!!!! I’ve easily made at least 5,000 pineapple upside-down cakes over the years (yes, I exaggerate but that’s how I ensure that you’ll read my not-so-interesting comments – hee) and I thought I knew what a good pineapple upside-down cake tasted like. WRONG! I baked up your recipe just last week and I was STUNNED (with pleasure) and then OUTRAGED (righteously) that I had been so hideously DUPED by that Betty Crocker bitch. HMPH! Your recipe beats the band! I loved every scrumptious bite and it flipped over like a dream! I still had to (shamelessly) lick the original pie dish clean but I hardly think that’s shocking given how I cannot exist on a diet that is less than 97% sugar.

    One quick tip from moi: green maraschino cherries. I bust out a jar of these around the holidays and plop them into a pineapple upside-down cake along with the red. Voila! A Christmas cake! (So clever, I know. It’s hard not to brag.)

  6. Marlys Stellingwerf says:

    Sally, I am in awe of you! Every time I look at your newsletter I am amazed by what a wonderful baker and photographer you are. Every recipe that you post makes me want to start making that recipe immediately. I read and try to absorb all you tips. It really excites and cheers me! You undoubtedly have the best website on the internet. I just printed Pieapple Upside Down Cake and I am making it tomorrow. Thanks for all the joy that you bring to my day!

  7. Can this be made in a rectangular cake pan? If so, does the baking time need to be adjusted?

    1. If you were to double this recipe, it will fit into a 9×13 rectangle pan and then some. Fill the pan halfway with the cake batter and use any extra batter for a couple cupcakes on the side. I’m unsure of the exact baking time – over 50 minutes I’m guessing.

  8. Thank you Sally. My 7 yr old son and I baked it this afternoon. It turned out awesome!

  9. I made this today, but can’t taste it until tonight since we’re taking it to a friend’s house. I knew I should have made two! I used sour cream since I only had flavors of yogurt that I didn’t want to mix with pineapple. I sprayed the foil with no-stick cooking spray before I put it loosely on the cake.

    The only problem I had is that my 9″ baking dish must not be as deep as the one used here. I usually use a 8×8 baking pan and wish I had this time. The liquid from the topping seeped over the pan while baking. It burned on the bottom of the oven filling it (and my house) with smoke. Everything else was fine. The cake looks beautiful and it smells so good…now that I have the smoke out of the house. 😀

    1. The cake was delicious!

  10. While making this cake yesterday everything went wrong in the kitchen…the butter exploded in the micro, the dripping butter burned in my oven, and I made such a mess! I felt like nothing is going well. But when I cut the cake, oh my it was so soft and delicious! it was perfect. I was a thousand times recompensated 🙂 I will definitely make it again!

  11. I made this for a BBQ tonight, followed the recipe word for word, but it’s not baking all of the way through. I’ve added 20 min to the overall baking time and it’s still not done. Any pointers for next time?

  12. Colleen Felts says:

    I have made a lot of pineapple upside down cakes in my life, always using prepared cake mix. I made this recipe last night and will never use prepared mixes again. Without a dought the best pineapple cake I have ever eaten! I am not sure if it was the brown sugar the recipe called for or just all of the fresh ingredients versus packaged? I didn’t add any yoghurt, forgot actually. This cake was awsome! I did have to bake mine a little longer but did not have any issue with mine running out of the pan that others are talking about. When I was younger, packaged mixes were great for the convenience. I find as I get older, scratch is just as easy and the flavor of homemade is worth the effort. Thanks for sharing your recipe. Can’t wait to try some of the others.

  13. I wanted to say that i made this today for Father’s Day and it is probably the best tasting thing I’ve ever baked! It pales only in comparison to a Cinnamon/Brown Sugar Babka I made once, but I swear this cake fights for the number one spot! Thanks for posting such a lovely recipe!! I had no problems at all, except that it’s almost all gone now!

    1. Thanks Holly, what a sweet comment. So happy you love this cake as much as we do!

  14. Mary Lupton says:

    OMG! I have cooked for many years, and have a large collection of cookbooks. I am no slouch in the kitchen. But I felt my old recipe could use improvement. So, when I decided to switch my pineapple upside down cake recipe, I ran across yours. On Fathers Day we had six for dinner. I doubled the recipe and made two 9″ cakes so we would have leftovers. By 10:00 pm that night it was GONE, every crumb. I’m not sure, but I think someone licked the cake plates when they sneaked the last piece. I’m pretty sure it was my husband. Thank you for sharing this luscious cake. It is one of the best I have ever tried. My family concurs.

  15. Made this tonight, along with the your BBQ chicken fingers. It was one of the best cakes I’ve had in a long time! I followed your directions exactly and had no problems at all. I think what really helps me in your recipes is the gram measurements. I have a kitchen scale and it really helps to be precise. I used a pie dish to bake in, and just made sure that it was one that looked a little deeper than the standard, basic Pyrex dish. It was plenty of room for the batter, with no overflow issues. Thank you again for sharing this recipe. It’s a winner!!!!

    1. I only measure by grams these days Alice, so much more precise. Basically foolproof that way; you can’t mess up! Happy this cake was a hit. Thanks so much for reporting back.

  16. Hi Sally, I was curious to know what you thought about whisking egg whites before adding them to the batter? I’ve seen several pineapple upside-down recipes that ask for the egg-white whisking. Also, what is the purpose of the foil? Will it make it more moist?

    1. Hi Daniela – I do not whisk egg whites before adding them to this cake batter. I simply add the whole egg and whisk as instructed in the recipe. The foil is see to prevent the cake from getting too brown in the oven.

  17. Thanks for sharing the buttery glaze technique. I used it and it makes a world of difference. The final product is rich and tastes delicious.

  18. I made this cake for a friend, I couldn’t taste until it was served. It was perfect. Moist enough, not too sweet. Definitely will be doing it again.
    Can I make it with strawberry instead of pineapples?
    Thank you a lot

    1. Strawberries would be wonderful – so glad you enjoyed it!

  19. I’ve just placed this in the oven with these substitutions – 1/4 c. unswtnd applesauce in the cake for 1/4 c. of the butter & 1/4 c. low fat sour cream in place of yogurt. Used a 9″ cast iron Southern style skillet . Ladies, read the directions here – it clearly says to bake it 40 minutes. Check at 20 minutes, etc etc.

  20. This cake was awesome! My granddaughters and I make it. It was my first cake made from scratch. Turned out perfect and delicious. Now I have the confidence to try more of your recipes. I used a 10in baking pan and had to substitute with dark brown sugar and vanilla greek yogurt. Still came out great! This will be my go to dessert now. Thank you!!

  21. Absolutely loved this recipe! So simple to make and was delicious!

  22. Also only took 40 minutes and toothpick came out clean.

  23. My boyfriend wanted a homemade pineapple upside down cake. I’m far from a baker so to google I went. I made this cake last night and it turned out amazing. Maybe not as great as yours but still! The recipe was easy to follow. He was impressed and I was proud of myself! Thankyou!

  24. Hi i was just wondering dony we have to grease yhe tin before adding everything

    1. No, you do not need to grease the pan because of the buttery layer at the bottom.

  25. hi Sally!
    I adore your recipes!
    I am making your cake today. I usually line the bottoms of cakes with parchment paper, would you recommend that with this cake if using the glass pie dish? Would I have to grease the parchment? Or do you recommend just greasing the dish ? Thanks!:)
    -Sophia

    1. Hi Sophia. Because of the butter at the bottom of this pan (as the “topping”) you do not need to grease this pan at all. Or use parchment paper.

  26. Great recipe!! I used a 8×8 square baking pan, followed the recipe exactly, except that I did take about 1/2 c – 3/4 c of batter out of the square pan, since others had an issue with overflowing in the oven. So I had a little cupcake version on the side, and the square cake worked out perfectly. No overflow. It was delicious, and it’s on my list to make again soon.

  27. I really want to try this recipe but I am a bit confused about the butter. Do we use an additional 1/4 cup o grease the pan or should I use 1/4 from the half cup listed to grease and add the remaining 1/4 to the batter?

    1. Hi Sylvette – the recipe ingredients breaks this down. There is 1/4 cup required for the topping. And then 1/2 cup required for the cake batter.

  28. I have been wanting to bake a pineapple upside down cake for ages so I went online to look for a recipe. Yours look the best by far so I went ahead, got the ingredients and made it.

    Wow!!! It came out amazing and was rich, sweet and moist! My husband kept raving about it… the only thing was, it took 2 hours in the oven to bake fully. I used a top oven for this and am not sure why it took so long. I followed all your steps so I think the problem lies in the oven.

    I will definitely make this cake again and again! Thanks Sally for your recipe!!

    1. Hi Tammy! I’m so glad you love this recipe but WOW… 2 hours for a cake this size? That is… crazy! Do you have an oven thermometer? I would check your oven temperature. Thanks for reporting back!

  29. My family said it was the best pineapple upside downcake that they ever had. I made one sustitution – I used heavy cream instead of milk just because i had some sitting around. Thank you for posting the recipe!

  30. I haven’t made this cake yet, but was wondering… Can you double the recipe and bake in a 9×13 pan?

    1. I fear there will be way too much cake batter. 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.

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