Coconut Soda–Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Boxed cake and pudding mixes—plus fruity soda—make a decadent and easy dessert

Photo: copyright © 2022 by Dan Liberti

photo: © Gabriela Hasbun 2021
Illyanna Maisonet.

In the writer Illyanna Maisonet’s beautiful, deeply reported, and personal new book, Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook, she shares stories of Puerto Rican life that are far from touristy cliches, reflecting on her family—especially her mom’s mom, her Nana—and her own experiences exploring what Puerto Rican foodways are all about. “When Nana made pineapple upside-down cake, she would coat the baking pan with margarine and brown sugar and line it with canned pineapple rings and maraschino cherries,” she writes. “She also added 7UP to the boxed cake mix. She poured the batter over the pineapple and cherries and baked it until the cake was golden brown and firm in the center. Unforgettable.”

She continues: “Much to the chagrin of Chef Teresa Urkofsky, my mentor and former pastry instructor, I love boxed mixes. I make an upside-down pineapple cake with guava and cream cheese frosting for all my pop-ups and private dinners. I have always been so surprised by the number of people who say they don’t like cake. But those diners liked my cake. Whether they were just being polite or I had truly converted them, the world will never know. The confession is…those cakes for private dinners were always made with a boxed cake mix.” 


  • Coconut Soda–Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (Yield: 8 to 12 servings)

    • 3 tbsp. salted butter

    • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar

    • 1 (15.25-oz.) box yellow cake mix (preferably Pillsbury Moist Supreme)

    • 1 (3.4-oz.) box coconut cream pudding mix (preferably Jell-O Instant)

    • 1 cup coconut soda or lemon-lime soda (preferably Coco Rico or 7UP)

    • ¾ cup vegetable oil

    • 3 eggs

    • 1 medium pineapple, peeled, halved, cored, and sliced lengthwise into 2-inch-wide planks


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. 

  2. Put the butter and brown sugar in the prepared pan, spread into an even layer, and put in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the sugar starts to bubble.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, soda, vegetable oil, and eggs and stir to mix. Set aside.

  4. Remove the baking pan from the oven and swirl it around to ensure the butter and sugar are incorporated. Lay the pineapple planks in the pan, arranging them snugly together to fully cover the bottom. Pour the cake batter over the pineapple slices and smooth the top with a butter knife. 

  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake is dark golden brown (I bake cakes a little darker than most) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Top the pan with a wire cooling rack and invert the cake over a baking sheet (to catch any errant caramel). Let cool for 5 minutes and then remove the foil.

  6. Cut the cake into pieces and serve from the pan. 

  7. Note: You can store leftover cake, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

Reprinted with permission from Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook by Illyanna Maisonet copyright ©2022. Food photographs copyright © 2022 by Dan Liberti. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.