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
OMG! This was so unbelievably good!
If you turn it upside down on to a plate for presentation, does it come out easily?
Hi RD, Cool the cake for 20 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Enjoy!
I love this (and all) of your recipes so much!! I have been challenged to make a pineapple upside down carrot cake. My 2 attempts have been futile (gooey undercooked middles). Since you are the cake whisperer, I was hoping you had a suggestion for this dilemma. Thanks! (I am tempted to stack this cake with the carrot cake on the bottom, but I know that is “cheating” 😉 )
Hi Tara, That sounds delicious (we love adding pineapple to the batter of carrot cakes!), but we’ve never tried this version. You can certainly try it with the batter from this carrot cake loaf, it should be the right amount of batter for this cake although we are unsure of the exact bake time you would need. But expect it to be pretty dense. Carrot cake is always dense anyway because it’s such a wet and heavy batter, but with the topping weighing down the cake when it’s flipped over it will be even more dense. Please let us know if you try it!
I made this yesterday and the batter was yummolicious! However, the finished cake was rather dry. I’m troubleshooting to see what went wrong, and the only thing I can come up with is that I scooped and leveled the flour rather than spoon and sweep. Would you be able to share which method you used when you measured the flour? Please and thank you!
Hi Ama! That can certainly be the culprit. You can learn more about how to spoon and level (rather than scoop and level) flour and why it’s important. Scooping can cause the flour to be over measured, which can significantly dry out baked goods. Be sure not to over bake either, which can also it out. Hope these tips are helpful for next time, and we’re so glad you enjoyed the cake!
Love this. I havent tried it yet, forgot to tent the foil. WHOOPS. hope its still ok!
Excellent recipe! I’ve had to save this one as it’ll be the only pineapple upside down cake I’ll ever make. Also, thank you for all your amazing recipes. Anytime I see an option to pick one of your recipes, I always do, because I know it’ll work out and be delicious!!
I would love to make this to bring to work for a co-worker’s birthday. Would the presentation be best if I made it in the morning before going to work? Or would it still look ok if made the night before? Thank you!
Hi Kristin, if you are able to prepare it in the morning before going to work, that would be best! Hope it’s a hit.
Hello! I love your recipes and I use them all the time. I was wondering if this recipe would be suitable for a bundt pan, or if I would need to up the batter. I like the presentation of a bundt cake and was also thinking of adding a rum soak/glaze.
Hi Libby, 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!
I use this every time I want to make a pineapple upside down cake, but today I actually printed it so I don’t have to look it up every time. Duh… Thanks for the wonderful recipe!
I just made this in a bunt pan and it came out perfect!!!! Baking time (for me) was the same amount as the recipe calls for….. just amazing wish I could attach a picture
If I wanted to use rum in the recipe to add to the flavor, would it be better to replace the milk or the pineapple juice in the batter? Or would replacing with rum not be recommended?
Hi Christie! We haven’t tested rum in this cake, but would try replacing the 2 Tbs of milk with rum. Let us know if you give it a try!
Thank you for sharing this recipe. The first time I made it, I melted the brown sugar into the butter while making the topping, and I added the eggs whole, (because I don’t like to waste them). The result was a slightly darker and richer topping and the cake tasted like Angel Food Cake. I had to make a second cake so this time I followed your exact directions. The result was a lighter, mildly sweeter topping and there was no hint of egg at all. During both attempts, I beat all the ingredients by hand. I recommend not changing the recipe if you don’t like the taste of egg in your cake. Everyone loved both cakes. Thanks again!
This came out PERFECT.
Pineapple upside down cake is one of my favorite cakes, and it has been since childhood. This recipe is divine. The cake come out so moist and flavorful, and the butter/brown sugar topping is delicious. I have started making it every year at Christmas, because it is so colorful and fun!
My 11 year old daughter and I just made this but it is seeping out during baking. Like a lot. Not sure what went wrong
Hi Anna, did you use a 2 inch deep pie dish? That’s crucial for making sure it doesn’t overflow or seep out when baking.
Hi! I’d like to make this for my husband’s birthday. Cake flour is not available in the country we just moved to. Is there a good substitute? The typical flour here is called cake flour, but it is really somewhere between cake flour and all purpose flour.
Hi Ashley! Here’s our post on making a homemade cake flour substitute – happy baking!
We love this recipe. Made the revised version using the cake flour. Directions and little hints given were very helpful! I’m 67 years old, have been around a kitchen for over 52 of those years and found I learned a few things at your site. Thanks for a beautiful recipe.
Hi! It practically caught fire in The oven, and I have no idea what I did wrong. I think it was the butter
Hi Jack! Did you use a two inch deep pie dish? That’s crucial to not having the batter overflow.
There wasn’t any overflow. I think the error of my ways was that I used a spring form pan, and the sheer quantity of butter and brown sugar in the base of the pan seeped out and started burning on the bottom of my oven.
Hi Jack! Oh yes, butter will seep through a springform pan. Placing a baking sheet under the pan will solve that issue next time!
I haven’t tried this yet, but wanted to see if I could make cupcakes instead, and what the baking time would be.
Hi Leslie, You can certainly turn these into cupcakes using a regular cupcake pan and 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!
I went ahead and made this into cupcakes and here, where my findings:
I ended up using 6 tablespoons of butter for the topping to evenly distribute amongst 12 large cupcake cups. Since there are only 10 pineapple rings in a big can I sliced two apple rings for the last two cups.
The batter makes *just* enough to fill 12 large muffin cups, so if you wanted to stick with 10 you would just have slightly bigger cupcakes. As it was they didn’t come close to spilling over. I ended up baking them for 35 minutes in a 325° convection oven (the cupcake tins were dark non-stick so I wanted to make sure nothing burned). They probably could have gone a few more minutes in the oven.
The only thing that I did that I would change was cooling the cakes on a wire rack after inverting. When I transferred them from the plate they cooled on all the bottoms were so soft that they stuck, and I was really worried they weren’t done. I ate one of the apple ones and the centers were perfect. I made these for a charity dessert auction, and for my first time making them I’m pretty satisfied.
THANK YOU for including the older version. That is what I use and the cake gets rave reviews every single time. I have shared this recipe many times. Thank you for an awesome, easy to use recipe!
I’m not a big baker, so maybe this is a stupid question, but oh well. I creamed the butter and sugar well enough I believe, it was creamy and fluffy. Then I added the egg whites to it and it all fell apart. Looked chunky, almost cottage cheese like. What did I do wrong amd can I fix it? Or just start again? Any help is welcome!
Hi Jane! We’re happy to help. Were your egg whites at room temperature? It sounds like they may have been on the colder side, which caused the mixture to curdle a bit when mixed with the warmer creamed butter and sugar. You can proceed with the recipe (it should start to come together a bit better as the additional ingredients are incorporated), and for next time be sure to use room temperature ingredients for best results. Hope you enjoyed the cake!
I already made this cake and everyone loved it! Can I double recipe and bake in a 13X9 pan?
Hi Maria, we fear there will be way too much cake batter if you doubled the recipe for one 9×13 pan. We 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). We’re unsure of the bake time for the 9×13 cake.
I followed this recipe completely and it came out so perfect. I flipped it once it came from the oven and it looked so beautiful. The cake was light and fluffy as well!!
Would a 2×18 in baking pan work for a double recipe? I want to make this into a birthday cake to feed like 15 people. Thank you!
Sorry I meant a 12×18 pan!
Hi, I was wondering if I could use other fruits instead of pineapple for this cake. Would it work with plums and/or cranberries, for example?
Hi Amna! Here’s our caramel apple upside down cake, cranberry apple upside down cake, and upside down pear gingerbread cake – let us know what else you try!
This was an easy, excellent, tasty beautiful cake. I only have one issue. I let the cake cool for 20 minutes. When I flipped it, the outer rings pulled apart from the center just a little. I didn’t look at the placement of the side 1/2 rings. They were round side down. Did this matter? Was it cool enough? Did i flip it too fast, too slow, just right? Want to make this again and also want the presentation to be as good as the cake. Thank you
Hi Pamela, I wouldn’t think the placement of the side pineapple slices would do that, but perhaps that was the issue. Maybe try round-side up. I usually place them that way and haven’t had that issue. You may want to cool the cake an extra 10 minutes before flipping, too.
Can I make this in a cast iron skillet?
Yes, you can make this in your cast iron skillet!
I’ve made a very similar recipe to this (using egg yolks instead of egg whites) and using very ripe plums and rhubarb and I must say it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten! I think upside down cakes are vastly underrated; they are also delicious using fruit like stone fruits (plums, peaches, cherries) as well as acidic like pineapple and mandarin oranges.
I’ve taken baking classes, which is how I’ve come across so many of your techniques and recipes Sally, and I must say I am a big fan. Thank you for sharing all your knowledge with us!
i just wanted to ask if we can put dollops of strawberry jam instead of cherries before baking? or will the jam burn or harden and make it difficult to remove? (although the jam would be put in the middle of the pineapple ring on top of the butter so I’m not sure)
Do u recommend putting the jam before or after baking?
Hi B, without testing it ourselves, it’s really hard to say how it would with with jam. It may harden as you mention or even melt away into the batter. To be safe, you may want to put the jam on after baking. If you do decide to do some experimenting, let us know what you try.
I put the jam before baking and it came out perfectly set without hardening or burning or making it difficult to remove so i definitely recommend it if someone doesnt have cherries on hand/doesnt like them. it was great
Funny thing happened, the cake pulled away in the center. It’s broken apart on the same rounds of the circles of pineapple. I’d love to send a picture and see if you can detect what might have cause this. They only change I made was my local grocery store didn’t have cake flour so I used regular.
Hi Jennifer! Was the cake domed when it came out of the oven? This will cause it to “split” when inverted. If you notice this next time, you can level the cake off with a sharp knife before inverting so you have a flat surface for the cake to sit on. Hope this makes sense and hope you loved the cake!
i love this cake! i wanted to make a smaller version of it to make a sort of mini-cake for a friends birthday. how would i need to adjust?
Hi Margaret, here is everything you need to know about cake pan sizes and conversions. Let us know what you try!
This was a great cake. Maybe it would work with apples too?
We have this caramel apple upside down cake you may enjoy!
Hi..can I make this eggless? If yes, what would be the right substitute? And the quantity?
We haven’t tested this recipe with egg substitutes, so can’t give any advice. Let us know if you try any! Here are all of our egg free baking recipes if you are interested in browsing there.