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

Comments are closed.

  1. Hi Sally!
    I really want to try out your cake recipe but is it okay to use salted butter rather than unsalted??

    1. Hi Amnah, If you only have salted butter you can cut the added salt in the recipe in half.

  2. Dot Cotter says:

    I used sr flour and fresh pineapple…..The cake was very dense but very very good.!!Thank you!

  3. First time baking pineapple upside down cake. I chose this recipe out of all that i saw in the internet, it looks easy and cooked to perfection, considering all those tips by the author. My cake came out perfect!.. so delicious! Everyone loved it!❤️

  4. Natasha Schwab says:

    Hi Sally,
    Do you think this recipe would work in an 8-inch square pan? My only round pan an 8 inch pie pan that is less than 2 inches deep, so I worry about overflow if I were to use that.

    1. Hi Natasha, the cake will overflow in that size pan. You could reduce the cake batter, but it would be a very very thin cake.

  5. Amy Williams says:

    Very excited to make this this week! Do you think it would be okay in a silicone round cake pan? Or does it need something sturdier? Thanks Sally!

    1. Something sturdier would be ideal for this particular cake.

  6. Hey sally! I really want to do this for my boyfriends birthday but I was wondering if there was a cupcake version instead? Thoughts?

    1. I don’t have a cupcake version on my site, but you could certainly turn this into cupcakes by dividing the topping and batter between cupcake pans. I’m unsure of the best bake time.

  7. Melanie C Webb says:

    It was delicious! I used regular flour since I didn’t have cake flour and fresh pineapple and no cherries.Thank you for such a great recipe!

  8. Carmen Wakileh says:

    Can I use a springform pan for this recipe – I don’t have a pie dish.

    1. HI Carmen, unfortunately the topping (which bakes on the bottom) will leak. I do not recommend a springform pan.

  9. Rita john says:

    I made the cake with exact ingredients but did not add sugar to butter by mistaje. I then whipped the egg white stiff i mixed all the dry ingredients with the butter, milk and sour cream. I folded the egg whites in at the end. i did use the pie pan.. It was spectacular.

  10. Hi Sally,

    Love your recipes! I want to try this but I don’t have a deep enough cake pan that you call for. Ironically I have a Bundt Pan.. do you think this will work?

    1. Hi Paul, 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 me to say without testing it.

  11. Eva Thomas says:

    Made exactly following each step in the recipe instructions. Cake was very dry.

  12. Hello Sally! I tend to prefer a less sweet (more buttery) cake — and then let the pineapple-sugar topping be the sweetness. What would you recommend I could do for cutting the white and/or brown sugars? Or would cutting sugars throw off the ratio with the other ingredients (eg, acids versus the bases)?

    1. Hi Rachel, you can certainly play around with the amount of sugar in the cake batter keeping in mind that not only will the flavor change, but the texture as well. (Sugar tenderizes cakes.) Start by only reducing it by a little, perhaps down to 2/3 or a little over 1/2 cup.

  13. Sheryl Kopplin says:

    Hi Sally,
    I made your recipe in a muffin pan & 2 small loaf pans. I shortened the bake time by 5 minutes. Ultimately using a toothpick to be sure. It turned out spectacular. However, when you bake this the tops, which then becomes the bottom, gets rounded when baking.

  14. René Rich says:

    I don’t bake. I bought a pineapple and decided to take a stab at a cake my husband loves. I used the pineapple, I made my own cake flour (thanks for the recipe), I made it in a cast iron skillet I lined with parchment paper, I blew up butter in my microwave and ended up with an amazing cake. Flavor, texture, look. Everything made me proud of myself.
    Your recipes never fail. I’ve been making your oatmeal raisin cookies and have made your biscuits since the quarantine started. Keep up the great recipes to help me successfully do something I don’t enjoy!
    THANKS

  15. I made this for my dad’s birthday. All I can say is AMAZING! It’s so delicious and moist such a perfect balance. I added a little more vanilla (b/c why not) and also a tablespoon of Haitian rum (b/c again why not)… just outstanding!

  16. Would I be able to use buttermilk instead of whole milk?

    1. Hi Gina, yes, buttermilk works instead of the whole milk.

  17. I was very disappointed Sally. I read all your lengthy, wordy instructions and followed them to a T. This cake was dry (not overbaked was taken out on the short time)
    I haven’t made this cake from scratch much if at all. It was for my Dad’s 89th birthday. Definitely needs ice cream to balance the dryness. I might just go back to the recipes that use cake mix. Have all been more moist than this tedious cake.
    Sorry but not impressed. Can’t find anything done wrong, no substitutes, etc. Lots of work, little return

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Kim. Sorry it was a disappointment. I worked hard to improve the taste, so I wonder if it was over-baked? Regardless, thanks for reporting back.

  18. I dont know, I wondered about that too, but I used the lower time, hmmm. And the toothpick was just a little moist. If I tried again I guess I could try less time!

  19. This was really good. I didn’t have cake flour so I used all purpose flour and 3 egg whites instead of two. Used a square glass dish. I let it cool a little longer because of the glass and it came out perfectly.

  20. Hi Sally,
    Will it work to double the recipe and use a 9 by 11 cake pan?

    I am a BIG fan of your Angel Food Cake Recipe. During Easter week I made three of them for family. Thanks for sharing your baking expertise! Take Care.

    1. Hi Ann! You’ll have too much batter for a 9×11 inch baking pan. Instead, I recommend 1.5x the batter. I’m unsure of the best bake time.

  21. Susan Ornstein says:

    We made this cake on Mother’s Day and while it tasted good, it was very dry. We blotted the pineapple rings so I think the absence of the pineapple juice dried out the cake instead of absorbing the juice into the cake. I probably won’t make this recipe again, but if I do, I will try adding the egg yolks and not blotting the pineapple slices.

    1. Could I make 2 batches of batter and divide in 3 8 in pans to do a stacked cake ?

  22. I don’t know how some people are ending up with dry cakes, but mines came out perfect (I used my scale versus measuring cups). Thank-you for the recipe Sally, I made it for my family last Christmas and I will definitely make it again. The only cakes my brother likes are cheesecakes and ice cream cake but he devoured this pineapple upside down cake.

  23. Lupe Torres says:

    I made this cake and it has to be the most delicious pineapple upside down cake ever! I followed the recipe step by step! And, cake was PERFECT! My family enjoyed it very much. Thank you Sally.

  24. This is an incredible cake. Make it as written. Sally, I like it better than the original version! Blotting the pineapples really helped.

  25. Vesta Scott Carter says:

    Pure Awesome-ness. This my third time making it. Each time….just getting better and better. I’ve got it down packed now. Thank you so much for this yummy recipe.

  26. Hi Sally, we made this pineapple upside down cake over the weekend. It was better than any cake recipe we’ve ever tried. Bake time was right around 45 minutes. There wasn’t a crumb leftover! We can’t wait to make it again soon. Thanks for sharing.

  27. I don’t have sour cream… what can I use as an alternative…

    1. Hi Mayura, You can use plain yogurt in place of sour cream.

  28. unmei chan says:

    I used this recipe and the presentation was spot on, people loved the way it looked, but unfortunately I will not use it again. The crowd said the fake was too dry to enjoy, I was kind of sad because people usually love my baking, but then again this isn’t my recipe…

  29. This was the most unbelievably delicious pineapple upside cake I’ve ever made. So light (which is usually not the case with these), so tasty and beautiful to boot. It’s been the highlight of the quarantine. Thank you!

  30. Perfection!

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