Pineapple Upside-Down Cake with Pecans
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is a truly retro recipe! This homemade dessert is equally nostalgic and delicious, featuring a light cake, sweet pineapple topping, and chopped pecans.
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Technique Used: Chiffon Cake Mixing Method
Created sometime in the 1920s, pineapple upside-down cake is an iconic US dessert. It’s retro, nostalgic, and has that classic decorative topping we all know and love. The light and fluffy cake is topped with a buttery caramel sauce and studded with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries.
Dubbed “upside-down” cake, you might be surprised to learn the upside-down part comes after the cake bakes. Once it’s removed from the oven, the cake is flipped upside down over a plate so the pineapple topping (that was previously on the bottom of the cake pan) is now on top. The caramel sauce and fruit juices seep down into the cake making it extra moist and flavorful.
- Pineapple Slices: The star of this cake! You might be tempted to use fresh pineapple for this recipe, but canned pineapple is a must. Canned pineapple is consistent in the sweetness and acidity levels, while fresh pineapple isn’t always the same every time.
- Maraschino Cherries: Add flavor, texture, and visual appeal. It’s not an upside-down pineapple cake without them!
- Brown Sugar: Light brown sugar melts in the oven and creates a caramel sauce. When the cake is flipped over, this warm caramel seeps into the cake keeping it moist and delicious. While I usually prefer the taste of dark brown sugar, I don’t recommend using it in this topping. The darker color dulls the impact of the bright fruit when the cake is flipped over.
- Butter: Melted butter helps create the brown sugar caramel sauce. After the cake bakes, it also keeps the cake moist.
- Cinnamon: Adds flavor. Feel free to omit entirely or replace with ground ginger and/or ground nutmeg.
- Pecans: Add texture and flavor. You are welcome to omit entirely or replace with an equal amount of chopped walnuts.
- Cake Flour: Gives the cake structure. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour so it yields a more tender cake. In a pinch, all-purpose flour can be substituted – though the texture won’t be as light.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda: Chemical leavenings that help the cake rise.
- Salt: A little salt offsets the sweetness of the cake.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar is used for two purposes – to sweeten the cake and to create the meringue that makes the cake ultra fluffy.
- Oil & Butter: These fats add richness, flavor, and keep the cake moist.
- Pineapple Juice: Adds a hint of flavor and keeps the cake moist and rich.
- Egg Yolks: Add richness and help bind the ingredients together.
- Egg Whites: These are beaten to create a meringue which creates a light and fluffy chiffon cake.
- Extracts: Vanilla and almond extracts are used for flavor.
PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE VARIATIONS
My favorite pineapple-upside down cake combines a classic chiffon cake with a pineapple topping, but there are so many other ways to make it! Instead of chiffon cake, try:
Pound Cake: Use my sour cream pound cake recipe in place of the chiffon cake. Prepare the recipe as instructed and pour it over the pineapple topping included in this recipe.
Boxed Cake Mix: Grab a box of your favorite yellow cake mix, make it as directed, and pour it over my pineapple topping recipe.
Cast-Iron Skillet: Instead of using a cake pan, use a 9 or 10 inch (23-25 cm) cast iron skillet for a retro vibe! The cake will take a little bit longer to bake.
HOW TO MAKE PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE with pecans
This pineapple upside-down cake recipe features two components: chiffon cake and pineapple topping. While chiffon cake requires a little more effort than other mixing methods, the final result is worth it. Let’s get started!
MAKE THE PINEAPPLE TOPPING
First, we’ll start by making the pineapple topping and preparing the baking dish.
Line a plate with paper towels and carefully place the canned pineapple rings and maraschino cherries on top. The amount of cherries needed depends on how many you want to use to decorate the top of your cake. I like to place one cherry in the middle of each pineapple ring. To use even more cherries, place one in between each ring as well.
Gently blot the fruit with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. This simple extra step will prevent the batter from becoming too wet. Reserve the pineapple juice from the can and set aside.
Pour the melted butter into a 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan. Swirl the butter to coat the bottom of the pan and brush it up the sides. Sprinkle light brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Arrange the pineapple slices with one ring in the center of the cake pan and six rings around it. Cut 3 rings in half and place up the sides of the pan.
Decorate with the maraschino cherries. When you place the cherries into the pan, give each one a good push so it’s in direct contact with the pan. This way, the cherries will come out with a vibrant red color and not be coated with the caramel sauce.
If using pecans, sprinkle them in the empty spaces. Set the pan aside while you make the cake batter.
MAKE THE CHIFFON CAKE
There are three parts to the chiffon cake mixing method: dry ingredients, wet ingredients, and egg foam. These three parts are all combined together to create the chiffon cake batter.
MIX THE DRY INGREDIENTS
For the fluffiest chiffon cake, sift all of the dry ingredients to aerate them and remove any possible lumps. Then, whisk the ingredients together. Set aside.
MIX WET INGREDIENTS
Whisk the wet ingredients together and set them aside until you are ready to combine all of the components.
MAKE THE EGG FOAM
The third part of the chiffon cake batter is the egg foam. We’ll use egg whites and sugar to create a French meringue. This meringue is folded into the cake batter to leaven the cake and create a light, airy texture.
To make the meringue, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Once soft peaks form, slowly stream in the sugar and whip until you reach stiff peaks.
COMBINE THE 3 COMPONENTS
Use a rubber spatula to stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Don’t over-mix the batter.
Add about a quarter of the egg white foam and stir it completely into the batter. This will lighten the batter and make it easier to fold the rest of the egg whites in. Add about half of the remaining egg white foam and gently fold it into the batter – be careful not to deflate the whites. Gently fold in the rest of the foam until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan directly on top of the pineapple and cherry topping. Use a spatula to smooth it out.
Bake at 350°F/175°C for 35-42 minutes until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. After 35 minutes, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the cake to prevent it from browning too quickly.
Set the cake pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes to slightly cool. Do not leave it for much longer than 10-15 minutes before flipping over.
FLIP THE CAKE
Run a butter knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a serving plate over the top of the pan and carefully flip it over. Wait 30 seconds and then remove the cake pan. If any topping remains in the pan, use a spatula to scoop it up and place back on top of the cake.
Serve slightly warm (not hot) or at room temperature.
Why is my pineapple upside-down cake soggy in the middle?
If your cake is soggy in the middle, this means your cake was not fully baked before removing it from the oven. Next time, use a toothpick to test the doneness – stick it into the center of the cake. It should come out clean. You can also use a finger to gently press onto the top of the cake surface. The cake is done when it slightly bounces back when touched.
How to Store Pineapple Upside-Down Cake with pecans
Tightly wrap any leftover pineapple upside-down cake in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Let the cake sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving so it softens a bit.
MORE RECIPES FROM BAKER BETTIE!
If you enjoyed this recipe, you might like to try these other delicious cake recipes.
For the topping
- 10 pineapple slices, canned
- 7-19 maraschino cherries
- 56 grams (¼ cup, ½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 100 grams (½ cup) light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 50 grams (½ cup) chopped or halved pecans *optional
Dry Ingredients For the Cake
- 144 grams (1 ¼ cups) cake flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 150 grams (¾ cup) granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Wet Ingredients for the cake
- 35 grams (2 ½ tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 56 grams (¼ cup, 60 milliliters) neutral oil (canola, vegetable, or avocado)
- 112 grams (½ cup, 120 milliliters) pineapple juice (reserved from the can under topping ingredients)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 52 grams (about 3 large) egg yolks, room temperature
Egg Foam for the cake
- 47 grams (about 2-3 large) egg whites, room temperature
- 25 grams (⅛ cup) granulated sugar
- At least 30 minutes before preparing your batter, take the eggs out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. Separate the eggs. Measure out the rest of the ingredients and keep them together according to their groupings in the ingredient section above.
- Position an oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
Make the topping:
- Line a plate with paper towels and carefully place the pineapple (10 slices) and maraschino cherries (7-19) on top. Gently blot the fruit to remove the excess moisture. Reserve the pineapple juice from the can and set aside.
- Pour the melted butter (56 grams/ ¼ cup) into a 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan. Swirl the butter to coat the bottom of the pan and brush it up the sides. Sprinkle the light brown sugar (100 grams/ ½ cup) and cinnamon (½ teaspoon) evenly over the bottom of the pan.
- Arrange the pineapple slices with one ring in the center and six rings around it. Cut the remaining 3 rings in half and place up the sides of the pan.
- Decorate with the maraschino cherries. I like to place one in the middle of every pineapple ring leaving room for the nuts but you can also put a cherry in between each ring. Push the cherry down so it's in direct contact with the pan. This way it will come out with a vibrant color not tarnished by the caramel color.
- If using pecans (50 grams (½ cup), sprinkle them in the empty spaces.
To Make the Cake:
- Dry Ingredients: Sift dry ingredients including cake flour (144 grams/ 1 ¼ cups), baking powder (½ teaspoon), baking soda (⅛ teaspoon), granulated sugar (150 grams/ ¾ cup), and salt (¼ teaspoon) into a large bowl and then whisk together to combine. Set aside.
- Wet Ingredients: Whisk the wet ingredients including melted butter (35 grams/ 2 ½ tablespoons), oil (56 grams/ ¼ cup), pineapple juice (112 grams/ ½ cup), vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), almond extract (1 teaspoon), and egg yolks (52 grams/ about 3 large) together in a separate medium bowl and set aside.
- Egg Foam: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites (47 grams/ about 2-3 large) on medium speed until they start forming soft peaks.
- With the mixer still running, very slowly stream in the granulated sugar (25 grams/ ⅛ cup) and keep beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- Use a rubber spatula to stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Don’t over-mix the batter.
- To the wet/dry ingredient mixture, add about a quarter of the egg white foam and stir it completely into the batter. This will lighten the batter and make it easier to fold the rest of the egg whites in. Add about half of the remaining egg white foam and gently fold it into the batter - be careful not to deflate the whites. Gently fold in the rest of the foam until combined.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan directly over the top of the topping. Use a spatula to smooth it out.
- Bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. This should take about 35-42 minutes. After 35 minutes, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the cake to prevent it from browning too quickly.
- Set the cake pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before flipping it over. Run a butter knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a cake plate over the top of the pan and carefully flip it over. Wait 30 seconds and then remove the cake pan.
- Serve slightly warm (not hot) or at room temperature. Store uneaten cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.