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

305 Comments

  1. If I want more pineapple flavor can I add pineapple juice to the new recipe. If so, how much? Thanks!

    1. Hi Alyssa! Feel free to replace some of the whole milk with pineapple juice.

  2. I made this exactly as directed and it was perfect. In fact better the next day! I had a 10 in round cake pan. When I added the cake mix, I thought oh no! But it came out the perfect ratio cake/ fruit.

  3. Can this be made into individual cakes, in ramekins for example?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sara, We haven’t tested this recipe that way but I don’t see why not! I’m unsure of the bake time for ramekins (or even cupcakes for individual servings).

      1. hi stephanie, wondering how yours came out. i am in the process of making them tonight…..this way i can share them among a couple different people…

  4. Hi Sally,
    I’ve used your recipe a few months ago and it was delightful. I up’d the ante and made a sheet cake by doubled the recipe ingredients and layered the shredded coconut on top of the pineapple before adding cake batter. Sally when I tell you, the cake gives you life, its so good.
    Thank you for making your recipes so easy to follow. Last week I made the dark chocolate mousse cake, today the pineapple upside down cake, who knows what I will make next week LOL. I stay on my elliptical because I am indulging in the homemade treats.
    Best regards,
    Helen – friend from Bermuda

    1. I live in the south, so almost fell out when I saw you did not bake this cake in an iron skillet. I encourage everyone to try the skillet method, gives bettter caramelization on the topping.

  5. This pineapple upside down cake is the absolute best. I will add a little juice next time for more pineapple flavor. The cake part is perfectionand I will use this cake for trying out new frosting recipes.

  6. Hi Sally!

    What pan size is this batter measurement for? And can I let the batter sit out if I want to bake them in batches of 4 inch pans?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marie, This recipe is written for a 9×2 inch pie dish or round cake pan. We haven’t tested other pan sizes but if you wish you can bake one smaller cake and leave the remaining batter loosely covered at room temperature until you are ready to bake the next. I wouldn’t let it sit much longer than the time it takes to bake on cake though. Let us know if you try!

  7. I have a beautiful mini-Bundt tray (think cupcake tray) with six cake openings. Do you think this would work to make individual cakes? The size seems perfect for one pineapple ring on “top”.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leslee, I don’t see why not! I’m unsure of the bake time your pan will need. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean– a couple moist crumbs are OK. Happy baking!

      1. YUM!!! I definitely underestimated the size of the pineapple rings so I had to improvise a bit to get the rings to sit in the mini bundts properly. ‍♀️ This recipe is AMAZING!! The cakes were perfect and the batter created such a delicious base. I’m definitely going to use this as a base for other cakes, as well. Tender, moist, and sooooo good. Thanks for sharing!!!

  8. Typo on the flour, 1.5 cups is not 170g 🙂

    Just made this recipe! came out great, the batter is delicious.

  9. perfect. next time I’ll use some of the pineapple juice.

  10. Honeidah Windross says:

    Hello, the recipe doesn’t say when to add the milk. I re read it 20 times lol. I did add it after the sour cream. Cake in oven now!

  11. This is such a great recipe and so easy to follow. Thank you!! This was my first time making this and it is definitely a keeper! My boyfriend asked for this as his birthday cake and it was perfect. (I used a 9″ round pan and added pineapples on the sides, I also used regular flour and it was still very good.)

  12. In the ingredients you have mentioned sour cream , is it okay if I don’t add them to the ingredients.
    Or do you suggest any else ?
    I’m from Sri Lanka it’s really difficult to find sour cream.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  13. Sally, I would never use anything but your old recipe. It is perfection extra batter and all. As a matter of fact- if I recall you mentioned using banana’s instead of pineapple if desired which is why I came back to take a look. I don’t see that now.

    1. Hi Terry, I’m so glad you enjoy the older recipe. (It’s in the recipe notes if you can’t find it!) I’ve actually never tested this recipe with bananas before, though I’m sure you could try it.

  14. Tastes amazing!

  15. Kriti Agarwal says:

    Hi Sally,
    I tried this cake, half the recipe in 7 inch metal pan. It tastes heavenly! However, as the cake slided upside down very easily, it cracked on the top(fruit side). There was a slight dome as the cake baked and probably when turned out, the cake couldn’t take the weight of the topping..is this understanding correct or there cud be some other reason for the same. And how can I avoid the same?
    Thanks
    Kriti

  16. Wow I got sooooo happy when i figured out that this did not need a skillet! This recipe got me sooooo happy to try and it came out perfect!!! Thanks for the recipeee!

  17. This was excellent. Easily the best and fun to make too! Subbing part of the milk for pineapple juice was a great suggestion, and it lent the perfect touch of pineapple flavor to the cake itself. My fiancé and I had a retro tiki-themed holiday celebration (because why not?) with just the two of us, and this was the centerpiece. What a festive and delicious cake!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      How fun is that! So happy it was a hit, Ashley.

  18. Marlene Williams says:

    Pineapple upside down cake is one of my favourite. I like to bake it and eat it too. My family loves my cakes. Your recipe solved all the issues I was having with my recipe. Thank you so much.

  19. Loved the recipe!!! Super easy to make, I reccomend watching the video beforehand as it helps visualize each step. Moist and fruity cake, it was great!

  20. Carol Griffith says:

    Hi Sally, made this today. I am a big fan and have made many of your recipes and they always turn out great.
    I had problems today. And I wonder what I did wrong. I followed all instructions exactly and baked my cake for 50 mins and the toothpick cane out clean. Cooled for 20 min on rack, inverted and it came out perfectly onto my cake plate. The center appears to be not cooked. Liquidy batter. I don’t know if I can save it now. Popped it back onto the pie dish and returned to oven to bake more. But the center is all sunken. Any ideas on where I went wrong? I guess it just wasn’t done even though the toothpick was clean?? Thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carol, thank you so much for giving this recipe a try! Sounds like the cake just wasn’t baked through yet. Sometimes when doing the toothpick test, crumbs will get stuck under the slightly harder “crust” on top of the cake. The toothpick will appear to come out clean, but the cake really isn’t done yet. To keep this from happening in the future, try wiggling it around a bit to make a slightly larger hole than the toothpick, then pulling out to see if there’s any crumbs. Hope that helps!

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