A classic cake for good reason, this rich, buttery cake topped with fragrant, caramelized pineapple and amber cherries is pantry-friendly and easy to make.
It is hard to overstate how simple yet stunning pineapple upside-down cake is. This cake has retro charm, but it’s a classic whose appeal hasn’t waned since it first appeared on the home baking scene. It starts with a rich butter cake that, once removed from the pan, reveals a design of caramelized pineapple rings studded with maraschino cherries. Each bite is little treasure chest of flavor — tender cake, mingled with the sweet and slightly tangy notes of pineapple and cherry.
The thing about pineapple cake that makes it so beloved is that it is dead simple to make at home. The fruit for pineapple upside-down cake is canned, meaning you never have to worry about it being in season, and you don’t need to know any special baking techniques to make this cake successfully at home.
What Makes This Pineapple Cake So Easy and So Delicious
Pineapple upside-down cake has a near universal appeal — the single cake layer only requires one bowl to mix, and it isn’t overly sweet.
Here we’re also putting some pineapple in the batter by using the pineapple juice in the cake batter! Because hello, the juice around those pineapple rings is sweet and full of flavor, so why waste it? You’ll need a cup to blend into the batter, which will leave you with just a few ounces for a cocktail or smoothie.
The Cake That Everyone Knows
Pineapple upside-down cake is a pineapple version of a popular cake where sugar and fruit are cooked in the bottom of a pan, then a silky cake batter is spread over the fruit, so once flipped over after it bakes, the fruit sits on top of the cake.
Pineapple upside-down cake is often rooted with the story of Dole Pineapple producing a contest for pineapple recipes after their invention of a pineapple ring cutting rig around 1925, but upside-down cakes have a history born before home ovens, when these “skillet cakes” were baked over a fire.
Pineapple upside-down cake’s popularity peaked in the 1950s (which is where it gets its retro reputation from), but it’s stuck around, becoming just as much of a classic because it’s so easy to make.
Key Steps for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Cook and cool the brown sugar topping before making the cake batter. Butter and light brown sugar make up the glaze that bakes at the bottom of this cake. It holds the pineapple and maraschino cherries in place once the cake has cooled. Do this step first before arranging the pineapple and cherries on top of the glaze.
Dollop, don’t pour the batter: The batter for this cake is quite thick! Avoid knocking the pineapple and topping around by scooping the batter into big dollops on top of the fruit and then gently spreading it out with a spatula.
Cool the cake slightly before removing from the pan. The hardest part of making pineapple upside-down cake is the maneuver which turns the bottom of the cake pan into the top of the cake. Cooling the baked cake slightly before flipping it allows the topping to cool and stick to the cake before turning out.
Canned Versus Fresh Pineapple
Pineapple upside-down cake is simple enough to be considered an everyday cake. We prefer to keep with the classic canned pineapple rings and maraschino cherries, as they give the cake its iconic look. Keep in mind that fresh pineapple and cherries produce considerably more juice while cooking and might not produce the same sticky-sweet topping that canned pineapple and maraschino cherries will.
Doing the Perfect Flip
Once your pineapple upside-down cake is baked and slightly cooled, you’ll need to flip the cake out onto a serving plate. First, pick a low plate or cake stand. Then run an off-set spatula or thin butter knife between the cake and the pan. Set the serving plate over the cake pan and flip the two together. Now let gravity slowly drop the pineapple cake out of pan — banging or thrusting the pan may break the cake, so have a little patience here! Finally, if any pineapples or cherries have slipped out of place, gently nudge them back where they belong.
How To Make Easy Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from Scratch
SERVES 8 to 10
FOR THE TOPPING:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 (8-ounce) can pineapple rings in pineapple juice
8 to 10 maraschino cherries
FOR THE CAKE:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
Measuring cups and spoons
9-inch round cake pan
Small frying pan
Electric hand mixer
Large and medium mixing bowls
Heat the oven and prepare the pan. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray; set aside.
Melt the butter and sugar for the topping. Melt the butter and sugar in a small frying pan over medium heat, stirring frequently. The mixture is done when the sugar is bubbly and slightly more brown.
Pour the sugar mixture into the baking pan. Pour the sugar mixture into a prepared cake pan and spread into an even layer to cool slightly.
Arrange the pineapple slices and cherries in the cake pan. Remove the pineapple rings from the can and reserve 1/2 cup of the juice. Set a single ring in the center of the pan, then arrange 6 to 7 rings around the center ring. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each ring and set the pan aside.
Whisk together the dry cake ingredients. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
Cream the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer, then add the eggs. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, beat on medium speed until lightened and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until smooth, about 1 minute more.
Add the flour mixture and pineapple juice in alternating batches. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the reserved 1/2 cup pineapple juice, in this order: Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 of the pineapple juice, mixing until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add another 1/2 of the remaining flour and mix again for about 30 seconds, followed by the remaining pineapple juice and 30 seconds of mixing. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and mix until completely smooth, about 1 minute total.
Spread the batter over the fruit. The batter will be thick, so use a large spoon to dollop large spoonfuls of the batter evenly over the fruit in the pan. Smooth the batter with an offset spatula, then tap the cake pan lightly on the counter to settle the batter.
Bake the cake for 45 minutes. Bake the cake until dark golden-brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Cool the cake for 10 minutes and then invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the warm cake from the oven to a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes (do not wait longer or the cake will not come out of the pan). Invert a plate over the cake pan and, using kitchen towels or oven mitts to grasp onto both the plate and the cake pan, flilp both the pan and the plate over so the pan now sits on top of the plate. Slowly lift the cake pan away. Serve the cake warm or cool before serving and storing.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.