This pineapple upside-down cake recipe is easy and made from scratch! Juicy pineapple and cherries in a sweet brown sugar glaze over a moist butter cake.

Pineapple upside-down cake one a wooden pedestal with a vintage silver server.

Original publish date: April 19, 2018

Today we are going to chat about a real retro dessert that I just adore: Classic Pineapple Upside-Down Cake!

If you know me at all, you know that I am a huge fan of baking (and eating!) cake. And I especially love an old-fashioned, traditional, vintage recipe like this one.

Some other favorites include this airy lemon pudding cake, this summery strawberry shortcake cake, and this southern-style hummingbird cake.

Desserts like these bring me back to another time, where ladies wore full skirts and high heels, and donned pretty embroidered aprons before popping into the kitchen to effortlessly whip up something magnificent on any given weeknight!

This one has a sweet topping of juicy pineapple and sweet cherries in a warm brown sugar glaze, over a buttery vanilla cake that’s so soft and moist, with a delicate crumb and a downy, velvety texture.

You’ll absolutely FLIP for it!! <–Haha, get it?

Pineapple upside-down cake baked in a round pan and served on a wooden pedestal.

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What is pineapple upside down cake?

Pineapple upside-down cake is a total classic. It was invented by James Dole (of the famous pineapple brand) in the early 1900s, and it’s been beloved ever since.

Upside-down cakes date even further back. In the Middle Ages, fruit and sugar were added to the bottoms of cake pans, topped with batter, baked, and flipped out to reveal the gorgeous bottom layer of sweet goodness.

This type of cake is easy to make. It’s just enough to serve a family, usually with a leftover slice or two. Because you only need one bowl for it, and no frosting or icing is required, it’s perfect when you’re feeling a little pinched for time.

The sweet, gooey top layer of pineapples and cherries baked in buttery brown sugar glaze drenches the top of an airy, moist vanilla cake. When it goes into the oven, the fruit and glaze are on the bottom, but after it’s baked you flip it out of the pan so it becomes the topping.

Hence the name “upside-down” cake.

Why this is the best pineapple upside-down cake recipe

  1. Topping: The topping of this cake is unique in its beauty but simple in its execution. Slices of fresh pineapple are cooked with brown sugar and butter until they turn golden and develop a rich, syrupy texture.
  2. Simple: There is no need to make a separate frosting, or even to make layers with this cake recipe. Everything is completed in one cake pan and in one bowl!
  3. Nostalgic: Each delicious and juicy bite of this cake will bring back sweet memories. It’s a truly impressive cake recipe that’s been around for generations!


There are two main components of this cake, the caramelized topping, and the fluffy vanilla cake.

For the topping

Butter: Adds richness and flavor to the topping and helps to create a syrupy glaze. Unsalted butter is preferred. Since different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, this is the best way to control the salt content.

Brown Sugar: Sweetens the topping and adds a caramel flavor when combined with butter. Light brown sugar is milder in flavor compared to dark brown sugar. You can use either kind! When combined with butter, it creates a sticky, sweet layer that caramelizes as the cake bakes.

Pineapple: I usually use canned pineapple rings. They add a tropical, sweet, and tangy flavor to the cake.

Cherries: Maraschino cherries are used to decorate the center of each pineapple ring. They add a pop of color and a sweet flavor to the cake, complementing the pineapple topping.

For the cake

This is just my favorite vanilla cake recipe, with a few slight tweaks. I think you’ll love the moist, soft texture and the buttery vanilla flavor. And it’s so easy to make in just one bowl. This recipe utilizes the reverse creaming method, which really makes it practically foolproof.

Flour: A combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour form the base of the cake batter. Cake flour is lighter and finer than all-purpose flour, which helps create a tender crumb in the cake. All-purpose flour provides more strength and structure.

Sugar: Granulated white sugar sweetens the cake and also helps to keep it moist. It caramelizes slightly during baking, adding to the overall flavor profile of the cake.

Leavening: A mix of baking powder and baking soda allow the cake to rise as it bakes. Baking powder reacts with liquid and heat, while baking soda requires an acidic ingredient (like sour cream and pineapple juice) to activate and produce a light and fluffy cake.

Butter: Adds moisture and flavor to the cake. This recipe works best if you allow the butter to come to room temperature before mixing it into the batter.

Egg: One large chicken egg (or a 1:1 plant-based substitute) acts as a binder, helping to hold the cake together. It also adds structure and richness to the batter. It’s a good idea to allow the egg to come to room temperature first, although I don’t find this to be critical.

Sour cream: Adds moisture and richness to the cake. It also contributes to the tenderness of the crumb.

Pineapple juice: Enhances the pineapple flavor in the cake and compliments the topping. I just use the juice the pineapple rings come packed in.

Vanilla: Vanilla extract adds a sweet aroma and enhances the flavor of the pineapple and cherries in the cake.


  • Pie plate: For what you see here, I’ve used a 9-inch diameter glass pie dish. It’s a little less than 2 inches deep. If you use a metal pie pan instead, you may need to adjust the bake time.
  • Mixing bowl: In which to mix up the cake batter. I just use the one that came with my stand mixer.
  • Mixer: Either a hand-held electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment will work.
  • Silicone spatula: For scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl, and for getting every last drop of batter out of the bowl!

How to make pineapple upside-down cake

This easy recipe comes together in 4 simple steps.

Step 1: Make the topping

Begin by melting the butter. I usually do this in the microwave. Every microwave is different, but mine usually takes about 90 seconds at full power to melt the butter fully.

Don’t forget to cover it with a paper towel. Sometimes it likes to pop and splash as it heats, and if you don’t cover it you could have a big mess on your hands.

Melted butter in a pie dish.

You can do this step right in the pan you’re baking the cake in! It’s a great way to cut down on dirty dishes.

Once the butter is completely melted, carefully swirl the pan, allowing the butter to coat the entire bottom and sides of the dish. Then sprinkle on the brown sugar.

Melted butter and brown sugar in a cake pan.

I like to use light brown sugar, but dark brown will also work.

Use a fork to combine the butter and brown sugar, making sure the mixture covers the bottom of the pan evenly.

Mixing brown sugar and butter together with a fork.

Next comes the fruit. Maraschino cherries are traditional, and you can use canned pineapple slices OR fresh pineapple rings.

If you’re using canned pineapple slices, be sure to reserve the juice! You are going to be adding it to the cake batter.

Arrange the fruit in a pretty pattern over the brown sugar/butter mixture. Then, set it aside for a bit while you get going on the cake batter.

Arranging pineapple slices and cherries in a pattern at the bottom of a cake pan.

Note: If you’re using fresh pineapple and you’re not quite sure how to cut it, here’s an easy video tutorial: How to Cut a Pineapple. Basically, you follow these steps, only instead of quartering it after taking off the skin, just cut it into slices about half an inch thick. I used an apple corer to cut out the core, and a cookie cutter to neaten up the edges.

Step 2: Make the cake batter

Start with the dry ingredients. Place your flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Then give them a quick whisk just to combine, and add in softened butter.

Dry ingredients in a large bowl with softened butter.

Work in the butter on medium speed, until the mixture resembles damp sand (this usually takes about 2 minutes). Then, add the egg.

Adding egg to cake batter.

Once the egg is fully incorporated, you’ll have a very thick batter. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and add the sour cream, pineapple juice, and vanilla extract.

Adding wet ingredients to pineapple upside-down cake batter.

Beat the batter until it becomes smooth and pale. You’ll want to give it about a minute to a minute and a half, to really aerate well and build the cake’s structure.

Then, transfer the cake batter to the pan, layering it right over the fruit and glaze.

Pouring pineapple upside-down cake batter over the topping.

Smooth it all out into an even layer, then into the oven it goes!

Step 3: Bake

Unbaked pineapple upside-down cake in a glass baking dish with a linen cloth.

You’ll know your cake is done baking when it looks golden on top, feels springy to the touch, and when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Step 4: Invert

Allow the upside down pineapple cake to cool for 20 minutes in the pan.

Then place your serving platter on top, grasp both the platter and the cake pan together, and flip. The cake should plop right out!

Pineapple upside-down cake on cake stand.

Expert tips

  • When arranging the pineapple slices in the bottom of the pan, make sure they fit snugly and are evenly spaced. Keep in mind that they may shrink a bit as they bake.
  • Allow ingredients like butter, eggs, and sour cream to come to room temperature before mixing, to ensure a smooth, lump-free batter.
  • Overmixing can lead to a dense and tough cake.
  • Oven temperatures can vary, so watch your cake as it bakes and look for sensory cues, rather than relying solely on the times given.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting it onto a serving plate. This allows the topping to set slightly, making it easier to release from the pan.
  • Serve slices of warm cake with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Because of the moist, sweet fruit topping, this cake is prone to get moldy after a few days at room temperature, so I recommend leaving it out for no more than a day or so. After that, it should go into the fridge.

You could also freeze it! Wrap it up very tightly so it doesn’t get freezer burn or pick up any funny odors, and it should last in the freezer for a couple of months. Thaw it in the fridge or at room temperature before slicing and serving.


Can this cake be made in a different sized pan?

I have also used a regular 9-inch metal cake pan and it works very well. Although I have noticed that it needs less time to bake in a metal pan than it does in glass, so be aware!

You can also bake individual pineapple upside-down cake cupcakes in a cupcake pan. You will get 12 standard-sized cupcakes from this recipe.

A cast iron skillet would also work.

Or, you can double the recipe and get a bigger, rectangular 9×13-inch sheet cake.

If you’re baking it in a different sized pan, you will most likely need to adjust the bake time. You’ll know your cake is done baking when it looks golden, feels springy, and when a toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.

Can this cake be made ahead?

I think this recipe is at its best when it’s fresh, but it does hold up pretty well for a few days, and it can be made ahead and frozen.

Once it’s completely cool, cover it lightly until you’re ready to serve it.

Pineapple upside-down cake from scratch, with one slice removed, showing the soft, moist interior.

A few more of my best pineapple recipes

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Pineapple upside-down cake one a wooden pedestal with a vintage silver server.
4.12 stars (9 ratings)

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
This pineapple upside-down cake recipe is easy & made from scratch! Juicy pineapple & cherries in a sweet brown sugar glaze, over moist butter cake.


For the topping

For the cake


To make the topping:

  • Place the butter in a 9-inch cake pan or pie dish, and melt it in the microwave (in my microwave this takes about 1 1/2 minutes on full power).
  • Swirl the pan gently, allowing the butter to coat the sides.
  • Add the brown sugar, mixing with a fork.
  • Drain the pineapple rings, reserving the juice, and arrange the pineapple and cherries in a decorative pattern.

To make the cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Place the cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Add the softened butter, beating on medium speed until the mixture resembles damp sand (about 2 minutes).
  • Stir in the egg until incorporated (about 1 minute).
  • Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, then add the sour cream, pineapple juice, and vanilla.
  • Mix the batter on medium-high speed for 60 to 90 seconds, to aerate the batter and build the cake's structure.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan, layering it over the fruit, and bake it until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean (approximately 35 to 45 minutes).
  • Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving plate to cool completely before slicing.


*Cake flour is a fine, light flour milled from hard wheat. It produces a lighter, more tender cake than all-purpose flour would alone. You can buy it on your regular grocery store shelf, in the baking aisle. If you can’t find cake flour or don’t want to use it, you can substitute all-purpose flour.  Learn more about cake flour here: Why Use Cake Flour?
**Greek yogurt or buttermilk can be substituted. If you don’t have buttermilk, make it by combining 1/4 cup of milk with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand until thickened and somewhat curdled (about 5 minutes).
Learn more about the cake recipe here: Perfect Vanilla Cake.
Calories: 389kcal, Carbohydrates: 60g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 59mg, Sodium: 131mg, Potassium: 143mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 47g, Vitamin A: 495IU, Vitamin C: 2.6mg, Calcium: 69mg, Iron: 0.8mg
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Tried this recipe?Mention @bakingamoment on Instagram or tag #bakingamoment.
Overhead image of pineapple upside-down cake on a linen cloth, with a text overlay above that reads "Pineapple Upside-Down Cake."


  • Allie

    Allie is the creator and owner of Baking a Moment. She has been developing, photographing, videographing, and writing and sharing recipes here since 2012.

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