Making a vegan pineapple upside down cake has never been so easy and delicious! This simple cake is moist, soft, filled with sweet pineapple and surrounded with coconut sugar caramelized edges. This is such a beautiful and fun-to-make cake recipe!
Who's up for a throw-back-in-time dessert? Most of us had this retro cake growing up (well, if you were a 70' or 80's kid) and I'm delighted to bring it back to you.
This vegan pineapple upside down cake is so beautiful, but it's actually a very simple dessert recipe: a melt-in-your-mouth sweet and moist white cake topped with juicy pineapple and sugary caramelized edges.
And you will only need about 15 minutes of hands-on time to make it. The quick cake batter is poured over coconut sugar and slices of pineapple that were placed at the bottom of a dish. And that's it! The oven does most of the work: the sweetened fruit pieces soften, get gooey and flavor the cake. And once baked, flip the cake to expose a beautiful array of color and let the juice infuse down into the cake. It tastes delicious and has that stunning look you are looking for.
Psssst... I know the flipping step might be terrorizing for some, including my-before-self. BUT don't let this intimidate you, this cake is a must to do!
Ingredients you'll need
- Canned pineapple: choose the kind that comes in juice - not syrup- and look for the ring shape if you can.
- Maraschino cherries: although optional, they add a fun flavor, but also color.
- Coconut sugar: can also use brown sugar if that's all you have. Creates a caramelized topping that surrounds the pieces of pineapple.
- Flour: I used the white whole wheat flour from King Arthur.
- Baking powder and baking soda: leveling agents.
- Vegan milk: any kinds work well, although I prefer to bake with soy milk.
- Apple cider vinegar: after combined with vegan milk, it creates a curdled milk that acts like a vegan buttermilk.
- Coconut oil: use refined to avoid any coconut flavor.
- Maple syrup: sweeten the cake batter, can also use agave nectar.
How to make it
Step 1: Prepare the baking dish
I highly recommend to use a non-stick round cake pan of 9 inches to make it. Also, make sure to grease the dish using coconut oil: this will ease the flipping step later on.
Once oiled, then roughly sprinkle the coconut sugar all over the dish all the way to the edges.
Then, remove the excess of pineapple juice on the fruit by placing the rings on paper towels. You don't need to completely dry them out: keep them moist while removing any extra dripping juice so the cake isn't too moist.
Display the pineapple rings over the coconut sugar. You should be able to use 7 of them by gently squeezing them so they all fit in one layer. Once done, distribute the cherries to fill the empty spaces. Set the dish aside and pre-heat the oven to 350º.
Step 2: Make the white cake batter
Combine the vegan milk with the apple cider vinegar and stir. It will slightly curdle, let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl (dry ingredients). Then, whisk together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup and curdled milk (wet ingredients).
Combine the wet + dry and stir well.
Step 3: Bake
Pour the cake batter over the pineapple in the cake pan. Use a spatula to even out the surface of the batter and bake for 32-33 minutes (check doneness using a toothpick, it should come out clean or with some cooked crumbles, no raw batter!).
Once done, then let the cake rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Step 4: Flip the cake
After the cake has rested for 15-20 minutes, then run a butter knife all around the cake and place a serving dish upside down over the cake. Once the cake is flipped, you won't be able to move it around easily, so try to center it on the pan as well.
Then, I recommend you first visualize how you are going to flip the cake. It is NOT hard to do, but it can be kind of awkward to know how to place your hands and flip the whole plate/cake arrangement. So, feel free to practice a few times.
Once you know how you are going to do it, then you just have to go for it. Now is not the time for a 'slow flip'! Flip quickly and without hesitation while keeping the plate over the cake pan as stable as you can.
Place the serving dish on the table with the cake pan resting over for about a minute. Then, I recommend to tap over the cake pan using your hands to help the cake fall on the serving dish. Then, lift the baking dish SLOWLY and... tadah!
Watch how to make it
- Make sure you don't use canned pineapple in syrup!
- You might be tempted to add parchment paper at the bottom of the dish when making this recipe to ensure it unmolds easily. But I recommend against it! It simply isn't necessary and it might interfere with the layer of coconut sugar and pineapple while it caramelizes.
- Be sure to grease your cake pan first. I love to simply cover paper towel with coconut oil then spread over the cake pan, but you can also spray a taste-less oil all over it as well.
- Resting the cake for 15-20 minutes -not less, not longer- is essential to ease the flipping step. Put a timer on! Flipping right after baked can result in a messy cake (it needs to set for a bit first) and waiting for too long means a colder cake with caramelized edges that can stick more easily to the cake pan.
- If your cake created a dome that bothers you while baking, then you can use a towel and GENTLY press over the dome to make it slightly more even (optional). This would need to be done right after you get the cake out of the oven. Leave it alone if the dome is subtle, though (pressing can make the cake denser).
Variations to the recipe
- Feel free to add about 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter to add some more flavor.
- Other flavoring to consider would be cardamom and cinnamon. Almond extract (¼ tsp) added to the batter would also pair well with the maraschino cherries.
- You can add some pecans instead of the cherries if you prefer. This would be beautiful if making the cake during the holidays.
- I avoided using butter to make this cake as wholesome as possible, but if you are looking for a treat or making the cake during the holidays, then you can add some melted butter (about ¼ cup) to the bottom of the cake pan before adding the coconut sugar and the pineapple rings. This would sort of create a caramel dripping over the cake after flipping.
Can I use fresh pineapple instead of canned?
I actually did test this recipe using fresh pineapple and it was great! I think canned pineapple is more reliable and also more convenient/quick, so that's why I listed canned pineapple as part of the ingredients. But, if fresh fruit is all you have, go for it!
Slice the fresh fruit pieces about ½ inch thick and simply display them all over to fill the bottom as much as you can (you probably won't have ring shaped pineapple pieces, that's fine!). The fresh pineapple cake test was slightly more moist as the fresh fruit releases more moisture, but it didn't feel soggy at all.
I think this cake is best when just done, freshly flipped and still slightly warm.
Serve with ice cream or coconut whipped cream and display some more maraschino cherries around. Also delicious with fresh vegan custard, if you can find it.
This dessert makes for a great pairing with a warm cup of milky tea.
Cake texture: what to expect
Upside down cakes almost always have a consistency that's more dense compared to regular white cakes. Just as a comparison: I used this same cake batter to make my vegan trifle which resulted in a much lighter cake than this fruity upside down version. Why?
Simply the fact of reversing the cake, which mean the heavy fruits come on top, will add pressure on the cake and make it denser. It is not quite a pound cake, but close to it, I would say. Especially if you press on the cake if a dome forms, then you will create a cake that's slightly denser as well.
It is SO good though, nothing bad about being a dense cake, I just wanted to share that info in case you have never had an upside down cake before!
This vegan pineapple upside down cake is at its best when just done since the moist fruit topping makes it a cake that doesn't store well for very long. I would say that it stays pretty good in the fridge for about 2-3 days in an air-tight container (cover well or it will dry), after that it can become more soggy.
To serve, you can gently warm it up for a few seconds using a microwave, but can also be enjoyed cold.
I haven't tried freezing it, but I doubt it would work well as the cake is so moist I would be worried it gets soggy after thawing.
I believe you could use pitted fresh cherries or thawed frozen cherries. They will release some more moisture, but I don't think it would be a problem as there aren't many of them.
You can try using a 1:1 gluten free flour instead of the wheat flour. The rest of the ingredients are naturally gluten-free.
Make sure to use a nut-free vegan milk (like soy or oat milk) and this recipe will be fully free of nuts!
Other vegan cake recipe you might like
- Vegan banana chocolate mug cake
- Vegan raw blueberry cheesecake
- Blueberry lemon mug cake
- Vegan chocolate orange cake
- Vegan carrot cake cupcakes
More pineapple recipes to try next!
- Pineapple slush
- Pineapple chia coconut parfait
- Vegan Hawaiian cheese ball with pineapple
- Blueberry pineapple smoothie
- Pineapple coconut brown rice
I hope you enjoy this vegan pineapple upside down cake as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Pineapple Upside Down Cake (Healthy & Easy)
- 7 pineapple slices (from a 20 oz can in juice) - see notes
- 8-10 maraschino cherries
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 1 ½ cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup plant milk
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ⅓ cup coconut oil - melted, plus more to grease the pan
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
- Pat dry the pineapple slices and the cherries using paper towel (just so they are not dripping excess of juice). Grease a 9 inches round cake pan (non-stick) with coconut oil. Sprinkle the coconut sugar at the bottom of the pan as evenly as you can. Then, distribute the pineapple slices over the sugar (you should be able to place 7 pineapple rings) and fill the holes with cherries. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar. Set aside and let curdle until ready to use.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the curdled milk, maple syrup and melted coconut oil.
- Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
- Pour the cake batter all over the pineapple rings and even its surface using a spatula.
- Bake in the oven for about 32-34 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (dry crumbs are fine). Let the cake cool down for about 15 minutes inside the pan.
- When done cooling, run a knife all around the cake to make sure the sides are not sticking to it and then place a serving plate over the cake. Then, quickly flip and place the plate with the cake pan over on a surface. Let the cake sit this way for about a minute and then tap on the base until the cake falls off. Then, slowly remove the pan. Enjoy with ice cream or coconut whipped cream.
- You can also use fresh pineapple (sliced about ½ inch thick). The cake will end up slightly more moist, but it works well.
- Don't hesitate to add 1 tsp of vanilla extract to the cake batter.
- If your cake forms a dome, then you can use a towel to gently press on it to slightly flatten it (should be done right after out of then oven).
- The cake is best when freshly baked as it can get soggy with time. Store leftovers in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 2 days.
- Although flipping the cake is EASY, I recommend to first visualize how you are going to flip it. It needs to be done quickly without hesitation, so practice if it is your first time!