Today I want to share this amazingly simple gluten free pineapple upside down cake with you. It's a single layer vegan and gluten free vanilla cake topped with slices of pineapple and maraschino cherries covered in a sweet brown sugar syrup. It's easy to make and requires no extra decoration.
Pineapple upside down cakes gained popularity in the 1960s and were pretty popular through the 1980s. I haven't seen one served in a long time, but I have fond memories of making them as a kid. We used to make ours with a box cake mix, but I always feel like homemade cakes are so much better. This vanilla cake is made without eggs, dairy or gluten so it's a great cake to share that can fit lots of dietary needs.
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Why You 'll Love This Cake Recipe
- Ease - This cake is easy to make. It only takes a few minutes to put together and once it's baked, there is no need for decorations.
- Simple but delicious - This simple vanilla cake is perfectly complimented by the sweet pineapple and cherries.
- Allergen friendly - Not only is this cake gluten free and dairy free, it's also eggless. No one will realize this is a vegan cake!
- Vegan Butter - You'll need butter for both the syrup topping as well as inside the cake layer. I like Country Crock plant butter or Miyokos plant butter. Whatever brand you like, make sure to use the stick type of butter and not margarine. If you're not dairy free, use dairy butter in the same measure.
- Brown Sugar - Brown sugar cooks down with the melted butter making a syrup topping to coat the fruit. You can use light brown sugar or dark brown sugar here.
- Pineapple Slices - Make sure to choose pineapple slices in 100% juice. You will need about 10 slices, which is a full 20 ounce can. You can also use fresh pineapple slices, although it's harder to get uniform sizes. Do not use frozen fruit or pineapple chunks.
- Maraschino Cherries - Not all packaged cherries are gluten free. Ensure your brand is marked on the jar or check with the manufacturer.
- Gluten Free Flour Blend - I used Bob's Red Mill 1-to1 flour for this recipe. You can use the gluten free flour blend you prefer, but ensure it contains xanthan gum or a similar binder. Using another brand of flour may result in a different outcome in your bake as all gluten free flour blends are a little different in their makeup.
- Cornstarch - Adding a little starch to the gluten free flour lightens it up so that it resembles cake flour. If you don't want to use cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca starch are suitable replacements.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda - A combination of leavening agents helps the cake to rise and lightens the texture.
- Salt - salt is an important ingredient to balance the flavors of this cake. Don't be tempted to skip it.
- Sugar - White sugar will help to sweeten the vanilla cake.
- Vanilla Extract - Helps to sweeten the cakeand add depth to the flavor.
- Vegan Sour Cream - Sour cream adds a little acidity and richness to the cake. If you're not dairy free, use regular sour cream in the same measure.
- Soy Milk - I specifically used soy milk in this recipe because it contains the highest amount of protein of all the dairy free milks. If you want to use another milk, like almond milk or oat milk, you will need to add 2 egg whites or another egg replacer. If you're not dairy free, use regular whole milk in the same measure - no need to add eggs if using dairy milk.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - This acid is used to sour the milk and activate the proteins to help stabilize the cake structure.
See recipe card for full ingredient list and quantities.
Substitutions & Variations
- Not Dairy Free - use dairy unsalted butter, sour cream and whole milk in the same measure.
- No Soy Milk - If you need to use an alternative dairy free milk, you will have to add either two egg whites or the equivalent in another egg replacer. The protein in soy milk is crucial to the structure of this cake. If you're not dairy free, use whole milk in place of soy milk.
- Make it Corn Free - Replace the cornstarch with arrowroot powder or tapioca starch in the same measure.
How to Make a Pineapple Upside Down Cake
This cake recipe uses the reverse creaming method for mixing. It produces a cake with few air bubbles resulting in a dense but velvety smooth cake texture. It's easiest to achieve with a stand mixer or handheld mixer.
STEP 1: Combine the soy milk and apple cider vinegar. Stir well and set aside for at least 5 minutes for the milk to curdle.
STEP 3: Add the room temperature vegan butter along with 2 tablespoons of the soy milk. Mix together for about 2 minutes until the butter is completely broken up into small pieces and mixed into the flour.
STEP 4: Add the vegan sour cream, vanilla and remaining soy milk to the partially mixed cake batter. Beat for another 2 minutes or so until it comes together in a thick batter.
STEP 5: Use paper towels to blot the pineapple and cherries dry.
STEP 6: Pour the melted vegan butter into a deep pie plate or cake pan.
STEP 7: Sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter in an even layer.
STEP 8: Arrange the pineapple rings and cherries on top of the brown sugar mixture.
STEP 9: Gently spread the cake batter over the fruit taking care not to disturb the arrangement. Then bake!
Drying the fruit before placing it in the baking dish keeps the cake from getting soggy.
Pineapple upside down cake is best eaten the day it was baked. If you do have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Probably too much liquid in the fruit. Make sure to dry off your pineapple slices before placing them in the baking dish. Do not use frozen fruit.
No. Frozen pineapple will release too much liquid during baking resulting in a soggy cake.
You will wait for about 20 minutes after the baking time has elapsed. The extra time in the pan allows the cake to set so it doesn't break apart when you flip it out. But leaving the cake too long will allow the sugars to set making it stick to the pan. 20 minutes is the sweet spot!
Since this is a single layer cake, a cake mix will make too much cake batter for this recipe. To use a box cake mix, you'll want to double up on all of the topping ingredients (butter, brown sugar, pineapple slices and cherries) and prepare the whole cake in a 9x13 baking pan.
Other cake recipes to consider:
If you try this recipe, please leave a 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 star rating and let me know how you liked it in the comments below.
Gluten Free Pineapple Upside Down Cake
For the cake
- ¾ Cup Soy Milk room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 ⅓ Cups Gluten Free 1-to-1 Flour Blend I use Bob's Red Mill
- ¾ Cup Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
- 6 Tablespoons Vegan Butter room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons Vegan Sour Cream
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
For the topping
- ¼ Cup Vegan Butter melted
- ½ Cup Light Brown Sugar
- 10 Pineapple Slices 20 ounce can
- 15 Maraschino Cherries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the soy milk and apple cider vinegar. Stir together and set aside for at least 5 minutes to allow the milk to curdle.¾ Cup Soy Milk, 1 ½ teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- Combine the gluten free flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and baking soda in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir until everything is well combined.1 ⅓ Cups Gluten Free 1-to-1 Flour Blend, ¾ Cup Sugar, 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch, 1 teaspoon Baking Powder, ½ teaspoon Salt, ¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
- Add the room temperature butter and 2 tablespoons of the soy milk. Beat for about 2 minutes until the butter is incorporated and broken up into small pieces.6 Tablespoons Vegan Butter
- Add the sour cream, vanilla and remaining milk. Beat another 2 minutes or so until all the dry ingredients are incorporated and a thick batter forms.3 Tablespoons Vegan Sour Cream, 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- Pat the fruit dry with paper towels.
- Pour the melted butter in the bottom of a baking dish - I used a deep dish pie plate but a 9-inch cake pan will also work as long as it has deep sides.¼ Cup Vegan Butter
- Sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter in an even layer.½ Cup Light Brown Sugar
- Arrange the pineapple slices in the bottom of the pan and place the cherries in the remaining spaces.10 Pineapple Slices, 15 Maraschino Cherries
- Pour the cake batter over the fruit and use a spatula to gently spread it into an even layer.
- Place the cake pan on a baking sheet (in case the fruit bubbles over) and bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. You may need to tent the cake with aluminum foil halfway through baking if it's browning too quickly.
- Remove the baked cake from the oven and cool on a rack for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, invert the cake onto a serving plate. It should come out of the pan easily. Allow to continue to cool on the plate before slicing.
Tiffany is the recipe developer, stylist and food photographer behind Well Fed Baker. As a lifelong baker who had to go gluten free and dairy free in 2016, Tiffany strives to share allergen friendly recipes that never feel like they are free from anything.