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 (180g) 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

334 Comments

  1. Would greek yogurt be okay instead of the sour cream?

    1. Yes! See recipe note.

  2. Charlotte Coleman says:

    Would you be able to use the pasteurized egg whites that come in a carton as a substitute?

    1. Absolutely. Make sure you use the equivalent the carton says for 2 egg whites. (I know some vary.)

  3. Sally – is American cake flour the same or different from Canadian cake and pastry flour?

  4. Hi Sally. Thnk you for the recipe. Is it possible to change the pineapple with apples? Lucia

    1. Hi Lucia, You could. Or you might be interested in my Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake or my Cranberry Apple Upside Down Cake.

  5. Debbie Porter says:

    Can I use unbleached white flour? How about crushed pineapple instead of rings? I am trying to limit my trips to the grocery store and use what I have in my pantry.

    1. You can use unbleached cake flour, yes. I don’t recommend crushed pineapple. If you use it, the topping will be very wet. You may want to reduce the butter in the topping, but I cannot guarantee the best results!

  6. Julia Burley says:

    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

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe, Julia! Sounds delicious 🙂

  7. 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!

    1. Haha! I’m so happy you enjoyed the new recipe, Alby 🙂 Thanks for your positive feedback!

  8. In the updated recipe, would a whole egg work instead of the two egg whites, do you think? I am excited to try this updated texture but would love to just use one egg in the process.

    1. You can, but the cake tastes denser using the whole egg.

  9. Sally, if you love cakes with baked-in toppings, then you have GOT to give lazy daisy cake a try! It’s a vanilla hot milk cake with a wildly delicious topping made out of brown sugar, coconut, butter, and a tiny bit of milk. You cook the topping over the stove until the brown sugar dissolves, then spread it over the baked cake and put it under the broiler for two or three minutes until the topping goes golden. Best. Cake. Ever!!! The topping alone is heaven, and I always double or 1.5x the topping recipe so that I have a little extra on top 😀 This is the recipe I use, and it’s pure perfection!
    https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/lazy-daisy-cake-recipe

    1. Sounds incredible, Erin! Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  10. Dr Stephen Vadas says:

    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.

    1. I’m so happy you had great success with this recipe! I appreciate your positive feedback- and what a delicious way to use some of your starfruit from your tree 🙂 Yum!

  11. Hi sally, I noticed that you adjusted the recipe. Would you be willing to share the other the other one you had up?

    1. Hi Shara! See recipe note #2 🙂

  12. Ellen Pringle says:

    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!!

    1. Love reading this, Ellen! Thank you so much for baking and trusting my recipes 🙂 How fun to bake with your children and learn science along the way! I truly appreciate your positive feedback.

  13. Good to know that works too! I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.

    1. Thank you!

  14. Made this today and it came out really well…. I love your recipes ❤️… stay safe & keep sharing your wonderful work

    1. Thank you so much for your positive feedback!

  15. 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!

    1. I’m so happy you had great success with this recipe! I appreciate your readership, Kaitlyn 🙂

  16. Delicious recipe! this is a treat for the sweet tooth’s like me.

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

  17. 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!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this updated recipe, Hannah! Congratulations on your upcoming graduation- a colorful cake is certainly perfect for the celebration 🙂

  18. Do you think I could add blueberries to the cake? If so, would you use fresh or frozen?

    1. 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.

  19. I tried this cake a few weeks back and it came out perfectly!!! Thank you for this recipe!!! My kids loved it.

    1. I’m so happy this cake was a hit with your family, Charuta!

  20. 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!

    1. Thrilled you had great success with this recipe, Dina!

  21. Daniel C Page Jr says:

    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.

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe, Daniel!

  22. 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!
    Mary H

  23. I tried this recipe today and it turned out perfect! I did follow the recipe to make cake flour since I don’t have any. I also opted to use whole milk yogurt instead of sour cream (I didn’t have any on hand). Its still scrumptious and divine! Thank you for sharing! Oh and instead of cherries I used shredded coconut, it’s the perfect combo.

    1. Made this tonight and everyone absolutely loved it, especially the cake portion. Do you think this cake recipe would pair well with a frosting like a “normal cake”?

  24. BENITA L SCHECKEL says:

    Hi Sally!
    I am a 100% fan girl of your recipes. Your blog is my favorite for all baked goods. I often tell my friends (or whomever will listen) that the thing about your recipes is they come out exactly like your photos and taste incredible. No surprises! And you can feel confident to make something new when company comes over without testing it out first.
    This Pineapple Upside Down Cake has become one of my family’s favorites and we made it again last night. As I was making it I kept asking my daughter, “Do you remember doing this step?” I kept feeling like I’d had a stroke and was completely confused as I followed each step. This morning your blog was still open on my computer and as I carefully read, I discovered the recipe had been changed. Reading is fundamental 🙂 Anyway, both recipes are great, however I prefer the old one just a little bit more. I love the combination of sugars in the cake and the addition of the pineapple juice gave the cake a little more of a special flavor. Also the new recipe took so much longer to bake. It took 25 minutes longer than the recipe suggests. I love the texture and presentation of both, but for me the original recipe is the A+ version. I also wanted to tell you that my husband accidentally brought home Bob’s Red Mill Fine Pastry Flour because he could not find regular flour during this pandemic and it is fantastic in this cake and pancakes too!!! The crumb is so fine and light. Anyhoo, thanks for all you do. Your recipes are incredible! I’ve had to up my daily exercise to keep up with my baking addiction and dessert consumption now that I’m working from home. Happy weekend! I hope your family is staying safe and healthy.
    Love,
    Benita aka #fangirl

    1. Hi Benita! I’m so glad that you enjoy my recipes and website! I’m so happy you love my older recipe for pineapple upside down cake, too. And that you tried the new one! Always love reading these comments, so thank you! Well wishes to you and yours, too.

  25. hi sally, i cant find cake flour right now, would all purpose flour be ok? would it be the same measurement?

  26. Tried your recipe today. (I used crushed pineapple instead of the rings.) Followed your instructions and it turned out great. Super easy with tons of flavor. Thank you.

  27. Hi sally! Can we use this recipe to make cupcakes instead??

    1. I don’t see why not!

  28. Hi Sally! Could this be made with peaches instead?? That’s my moms favourite ❤️

    1. Yes, definitely. Slice them thin and blot dry as you do with the pineapple.

  29. I was inspired by everyone’s lockdown substitutions so gave this a try even though I was missing quite a few ingredients. Turned out great! Substituted 1/2 the brown sugar with regular sugar (and cut back a bit for the topping). I left out the baking soda, used fat free greek yogurt, and used almond extract instead of vanilla. Oh- and no cherries. Used fresh pineapples. Yum!

  30. Hi Sally, can I make this in springform? I don’t have a glass pie dish.

    1. I used a spring form tonight and would not recommend. The topping dropped out the bottom and when flipping the cake it lost its shape. Still so delicious but not ideal…..

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