Brown sugar, pineapple, maraschino cherries and yellow cake are the best summer combination in this easy pineapple upside-down cake. No one will guess that it’s made using a yellow cake mix!
If there is one thing that’s true about me, it’s that I am a planner.
I’ve never been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person and I 100% lack the love for spontaneity – it’s just never been my thing. Which is why summer can be a little much for me sometimes.
Between last minute play dates and impromptu cookouts and pool parties, I can get a little overwhelmed.
Because of this, I’ve learned to always have the basics on hand for quick summer entertaining.
Things like hot dogs, buns, chips and strawberry popsicles come in mighty handy when you’ve got a group of kiddos complaining that they’re starving!
And even though I love a perfectly toasted s’more, easy summer dessert recipes are also a summer must around here.
WHAT IS UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE?
Upside-down cake is used to describe a cake that is baked “upside down” with the toppings on the bottom of the pan.
After baking, the cake is immediately turned out of the pan, flipping what was the bottom of the cake to the top.
The most famous upside-down cake is pineapple upside-down cake: pineapple, and often maraschino cherries, are baked in brown sugar caramel on the bottom of the cake. This pineapple layer becomes the topping for the cake when it is turned out of the pan.
Even though pineapple upside-down cake is the most popular and well-known version of this cake, there are lots of other fruits you can use to make upside-down cake!
HOW TO MAKE THIS EASY PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
There are lots of variations on pineapple upside-down cake that use fresh pineapple and a made-from-scratch yellow cake.
These versions are delicious, but I wanted to make a bit of a shortcut version. Something super simple, that anyone could throw together on a whim for unexpected guests or last-minute gatherings.
This easy pineapple upside-down cake uses a yellow-cake version of my doctored cake mix to make a cake that tastes homemade, but comes together in no time at all.
Ingredients you’ll need
A lot of the ingredients for this cake are pantry staples around here, so I almost always have what I need on hand to make this recipe any time.
For the topping part of this recipe, you’ll need:
- Light brown sugar: You can also use dark brown sugar here. If you are out of either one, check out how to make a brown sugar substitute.
- Salted butter: I like to use salted butter here; the salt in the butter helps balance out some of the sweetness of the brown sugar and the fruit in the topping.
- Canned pineapple slices: The pineapple slices will go on the bottom/top of the cake, and the juice will go into the cake itself!
- Maraschino cherries without stems: I love the way the red cherries pop against the pineapple in the topping. If you don’t like maraschino cherries or don’t have any on hand, feel free to omit them.
For the cake itself, you’ll need:
- Yellow cake mix: A simple yellow cake mix is the base of this easy pineapple upside-down cake recipe. I typically use the Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines mixes, but use whichever yellow cake mix is your favorite.
- Instant French vanilla pudding mix: A box of instant pudding mix helps add some great flavor and moisture to the cake. If you can’t find French vanilla mix, regular instant vanilla pudding mix will work just fine.
- Sour cream: Sour cream is similar to buttermilk in that its acidity helps keep the cake moist and tender. (In fact, it’s one of the substitutes I suggest in how to make buttermilk!)
- Vegetable oil & eggs: Both of these are already called for to make the cake mix – we just change the amount slightly here.
- Vanilla extract: A bit of pure vanilla extract just helps add that homemade flavor to the cake mix!
Making this recipe
Grab a 13×9-inch metal cake pan and place the butter in the bottom. Pop the pan into the oven while it preheats to melt the butter; this will take about 5 minutes.
Once the butter is melted, make sure it’s evenly distributed across the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle the brown sugar all over the top.
Next, drain the juice from the pineapple but make sure to save ½ cup of the juice! Trust me, you’ll need it for the cake.
Arrange the pineapple rings in the pan, then arrange the maraschino cherries in the center of each slice and around the edges.
Now it’s time to make the cake batter. Mix together all of the cake ingredients, along with the reserved ½ cup of pineapple juice. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, just to bring everything together, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
Pour the cake batter over the pineapple slices and bake.
How to flip the cake
As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, run a knife around the edge and get ready to turn the cake out of the pan.
Here is the best way I’ve found to flip the cake:
Place a large platter upside-down over the top of the pan – make sure it covers all edges of the pan.
Use oven mitts for this next part. Remember, the cake pan is still very hot!
Grab both the platter and the cake pan and quickly turn everything over so that the platter is on the bottom and the cake pan is on top.
Let the cake rest with the pan on top of it for about 5 minutes. This will allow the syrup to drip all over the cake.
Take off the pan and let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes before serving with a dollop of homemade whipped cream or Cool Whip.
This easy pineapple upside-down cake can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Much like banana cake, the fruit in this cake makes it nice and moist, so you’ll definitely want to keep it in the fridge.
I do not recommend freezing this cake due to the pineapple and brown sugar topping. Luckily, it’s so easy to make that you can quickly pull it together any time!
MORE PINEAPPLE CAKE RECIPES
Love this easy pineapple upside-down cake and looking for more ways to enjoy pineapple desserts this summer? I’ve got you covered! Try these four pineapple cake recipes any time.
Easy Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 can pineapple slices in juice, undrained 20 ounces
- 1 jar maraschino cherries without stems 6 ounces, or about 15-20 maraschino cherries
- 1 box yellow cake mix 15.25 ounces
- 1 box instant French vanilla pudding mix 3.4 ounces
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the butter in a 13×9-inch metal cake pan. Place the pan in the oven for about 5 minutes to melt the butter.
- Make sure the melted butter is evenly distributed over the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top.
- Drain the pineapple slices, reserving ½ cup of the juice. Arrange the pineapple slices on top of the brown sugar in the pan. Place a cherry in the center of each pineapple slice; arrange the remaining cherries around the edges and between the slices as desired. Set the pan aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and reserved pineapple juice. Beat with an electric mixer at low speed for about 30 seconds, then increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.
- Pour the batter evenly over the pineapple slices in the pan. Bake for 42-45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Immediately run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a large platter upside-down over the top of the cake; carefully (using oven mitts) grab the platter and the cake pan and invert so the platter is on the bottom and the cake pan is on the top.
- Let the cake rest with the pan on top of it for 5 minutes to allow the syrup to drip over the cake. Remove the pan and let the cake cool for 30 minutes.
- Serve with whipped cream or Cool Whip.