Pineapple Upside Down Carrot Cake

I’m going to apologize to anyone who is on a diet or watching their waistline or avoiding sweets right now and get it out of the way. I also tender my deepest and most sincere apologies to carrot cake and pineapple upside down cake addicts because what I’ve done? Well, it’s dangerous.

Really dangerous.

My heart is heavy. So is the rest of me after eating more than my fair share of this cake. Please forgive me.

Apologies completed, I also have to tell you something. I am not usually a cake person. Cakes are alright, I guess. I won’t turn a piece down at a party, but I’m also not going to take the last piece from the buffet table. “Someone else who loves cake should eat this. Not me,” goes my usual reasoning. I don’t so much like frosting (unless it’s cream cheese*).  You could say I’m very meh on cake.

*Do you see the cream cheese commonality? The truth is, I’d sit down with nothing more than a block of cream cheese and a spoon pretty happily, so if you slather it on or bake it into just about anything I’m there.

There are a couple of notable exceptions. I love upside down cakes; pineapple, cranberry, blueberry, apple, whatever. You put butter, sugar, and fruit under cake batter and let it caramelize and I’ll beat you with a stick if it gets me to that cake before you. And I’m pretty keen on carrot cake. You know I have certain rules about certain foods, right*? Carrot cake is another one of my high maintenance areas.

*Rutabagas in my pasties, chunky guacamole, etc…

As you read my rules, it will be clear that I am in the pared-down-carrot-cake-club. I like my carrot cake without chunks of stuff distributed throughout it. My carrot cake rules can be summed up in one sentence, “I’ll omit that.” To be clearer:

  • No nuts please. I love to munch a handful of toasted walnuts, I just don’t love them in my carrot cake.
  • No dried fruit please. This includes dry, flaked coconut. See the above note on nuts.
  • Carrot cakes are not an excuse to throw out hundreds of years of cake-baking knowledge. If you use heavy ingredients (coarse whole wheat, honey instead of sugar, etc…) you will end up with a hockey puck of a cake. And while I love hockey, it belongs nowhere near my carrot cake. (Unless I’m sitting on the couch watching hockey whilst eating carrot cake, that is.)
  • No pineapple stirred into the carrot cake batter. See the notes on nuts and dried fruits.

“Ah ha!” says the stirring-stuff-into-the-carrot-cake crowd, “Then why are you making a Pineapple Upside Down Carrot Cake? Doesn’t that break your silly rule?” In a word? No.

The beauty of the upside-down cake family is that the fruit caramelizes. The fruit here gets sticky, dark, deep brown bits and highly developed caramel flavours that you simply cannot achieve by stirring that poor, sad, lonely, pale pineapple into the cake batter. In my book, caramel equals a big, fat win.

Of course, my dear stirring-stuff-in crowd, you may certainly stir stuff in here if it is what makes your days a little brighter. But I think the caramelized bits of pineapple stuck to the top of the cake will be enough to flic your Bic. I really, honestly do.

Oh hey, if you were to toss a little scoop of vanilla ice cream on your piece of warm cake you’d probably be a pretty happy person. Happy. Very happy. And then you’ll probably get a little mad at me. I did apologize though, and if you made it this far, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’ve forgiven me. So, let’s just grab another piece of cake and make nice, okay?

P.S. If you want to make this over-the-moon, prepare it with Bourbon Vanilla Infused Raw Sugar.  You’ll be so glad you did. Or mad. Your choice.

The base recipe for this beautiferous creation comes from the recipe for Ultimate Carrot Cake by Zoe François of Zoe Bakes. I omitted the dried fruit, walnuts, frosting and coconut and then performed a little upside-downing with pineapple operation.

Pineapple Upside Down Carrot Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Caramelized, deep brown, buttery pineapple crowns perfect, sweet carrot cake. Top warm pieces with vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of creme fraiche for an over-the-top indulgent treat.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients for cake batter:
  • 1 pound finely grated then chopped carrots (see notes)
  • 4 extra large eggs at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1¼ cups canola oil
  • ⅔ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of one orange
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of ground cloves
Ingredients for pineapple caramel layer:
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup raw (turbinado) sugar, (preferably Bourbon Vanilla Raw Sugar. Instructions on how to prepare this are available here on Foodie With Family.)
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained of juice and squeezed lightly to remove more juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
To prepare the Pineapple Caramel Layer:
  1. Spray a bundt pan (or six individual sized bundt pans) with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Break off pieces of the softened butter and dot the bottom of the pan evenly. (If using mini bundt pans, divide the butter evenly between them.)
  3. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the butter. (Again, if using the individual bundt pans, divide the sugar evenly between the pans.)
  4. Evenly distribute the pineapple over the sugar.
To prepare the Carrot Cake batter:
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated and brown sugar, oil, vanilla extract and orange zest.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all the spices in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and stir together with a wooden spoon until there are no more pockets of dry ingredients.
  4. Add the carrots all at once and fold into the batter.
  5. Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pan(s). The batter should rise no higher than ⅔ of the way up the pan.
  6. Bake 25-30 minutes for mini-bundt pans or 60-70 minutes for a regular bundt pan, or until a straw inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (If using mini pans, test each cake.)
  7. Let the cake rest in the pan(s) for five minutes before turning onto a serving platter.
  8. For best flavour, serve while still warm.
Zoe Francois suggested coarsely grating the carrots in the food processor then chopping them with the blade a bit. I opted to grate my carrots on the fine-grating disc in my food processor followed by pulsing them with the blade for a finer texture to the carrots in my cake. This accomplished two things. It made it a far easier sell for the anti-vegetable gruesome twosome in my house in addition to creating a lighter textured end product. I liked the fine texture so much that I'll carry on doing it this way long after the gruesome twosome comes out of this veg phobic phase.




  1. says

    This is nothing short of brilliant. My husband and I aren’t big cake fans either (we had a brownie for our wedding “cake”), but he makes exceptions for carrot cake and pineapple upside down cake. I’m thinking this might be the perfect thing to make for our anniversary this weekend.

  2. says

    I’m on the opposite end of the carrot cake philosophy – none of this nuts OR coconut OR pineapple business… it’s all of the above, and plenty of it. I think this cake is probably a good compromise between the two camps, though… the minimalists still get their plain cake, and the stir-stuff-inners get their chunky bits of pineapple. All’s well that ends well. :)
    (Also,I firmly believe that any cake can be vastly improved by making it in an upside-down version)

  3. says

    Head spinning…fantasizing about each bite…thinking about how much *I* would love this by adding back in those nuts and coconut you so dislike. Printing!

  4. says

    Looked like a great concept so I tried it, but changed up a few things – didn’t have enough carrots so added some chopped walnuts, had some divine candied ginger that I made from David Lebovitz’s recipe, so added that instead of powdered ginger and used chopped, fresh pineapple instead of crushed. The result was deletable melange of tastes – not quite carrot cake, not quite pineapple upside down, not quite ….not what was originally intended, but yummy none-the-less.


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