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Pecan Upside Down Cake

5 from 9 votes
Time: 1 hour
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This Pecan Upside Down Cake is easy to make, delicious, and great for the holidays. It is baked in a single cake pan but with two layers- gooey pecan topping and a moist vanilla cake. It is all the flavors of a classic pecan pie in cake form!

Craving more pecan? Try my all time favorite Pecan Pie Dip or this Carrot Snack Cake.

Cut out of the cake with a slice on the side, extra pecans, and forks.

Why This Will Be Your Favorite Cake:

Upside Down Cakes are one of my favorite things to make when I am craving cake. I guarantee once you try this, it will be your favorite too!

They are so easy, beautiful, and not too sweet because there is no frosting. This recipe is great because it incorporates the flavors of pecan pie and vanilla cake in one. But even better . . .

  • It requires NO decorating because it is beautiful and rustic on it’s own.
  • One layer packed with flavor: notes of vanilla, pecan, and caramelized brown sugar.
  • Can be made ahead of time which is great for the holidays, parties, or to have dessert any night of the week.
Close up of Pecan Upside Down Cake texture. A light airy crumb.

What Is An Upside Down Cake?

Upside Down Cakes are a classic, old fashioned dessert that is baked in one cake pan. The most popular upside down cake is a pineapple upside down cake.

Basically, the toppings are on the bottom of the pan and the cake is on the top. Once it is baked you flip the cake upside down and remove the cake pan. It is then serve with the toppings on the top.

Watch Me Make This Recipe In Under A Minute!

Ingredients in Pecan Upside Down Cake

This recipe is two parts: the pecan mixture and then the vanilla cake. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list (most of it is basic pantry staples). I do give a few substitution suggestions as well.

Gooey Pecan Mixture

  • Pecans: I like to use pecan halves because I love the look of them. Feel free to use chopped pecans or even a combination of chopped and halves. Make sure they are unsalted, and you can even toast them in the oven for more depth of flavor.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter works best in this recipe. If you use salted butter, just skip the added salt.
  • Light Corn Syrup: Dark corn syrup can be substituted. In terms of taste, the pecan mixture will have a deeper and more caramel like flavor.
  • Brown Sugar: Absolutely essential for the gooey consistency and caramel notes.
  • Salt: This helps to boost the flavors.

One Bowl Vanilla Cake

  • Granulated Sugar: Cane sugar can be used in it’s place.
  • Eggs: Bring them to room temperature.
  • Sour Cream: I love using this in baking because it adds the best moisture . You can use Greek yogurt in it’s place if you want to lighten up this recipe.
  • Melted Butter: This recipe uses unsalted butter. You can certainly use salted butter, just be sure to omit the added salt. Vegetable oil can be used in its place as well.
  • Milk: I used whole milk because it is what I had in the refrigerator. Any type of milk will do, just keep in mind the fat content in your milk makes a difference. The less fat means less
  • Vanilla Extract: Because this is a vanilla cake, make sure you use a high quality vanilla.
  • All-Purpose Flour: This recipe was not tested with other types of flour.
  • Baking Powder and Soda: Leavening agents to give our cake body and texture.
  • Salt: An essential flavor booster.

Equipment Needed

  • Hand Mixer: Use beater attachments for this cake.
  • Round Cake Pan: This recipe uses a 10×3 inch pan. I always recommend using light silver pans so the edges of your cake is not over browned and caramelized.
  • Shallow Skillet: I recommend using stainless steel because it heats the caramel pecan topping more evenly and is nonstick.

How to Make A Pecan Upside Down Cake At Home

This is a quick run down of the steps, the recipe card below will have more details.

  1. Prep your pan with a parchment circle in the bottom and grease the bottom and sides.
  2. Make the pecan mixture. Add the ingredients (except the pecans) to a saucepan and heat just until melted and no further. Fold in the pecans and pour it into your prepared baking pan. Spread it into an even layer and refrigerate.
  3. Mix together the vanilla cake. Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in and combine together the rest of the wet ingredients and fold in the dry ingredients. Evenly spread the batter over top the chilled pecan mixture.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cake is completely baked (a toothpick test should come out clean). Once baked, run a butter knife around the perimeter of the cake and allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn out the Pecan Upside Down Cake onto a plate or large serving dish. If any pecans stick to the pan just scoop them out and place them on top of the cake. Allow it to cool to room temperature before enjoying.

PRO TIP: Make this a day before you plan on serving it. This Pecan Upside Down Cake tastes EVEN BETTER the next day! Why? Allowing your cake to sit overnight gives the flavors time to meld together and develop even more.

How to Store Leftover Pecan Upside Down Cake

This cake has a few options for storing. I like to keep mine at room temperature with plastic wrap over the top or in an airtight container. Storing it at room temperature keeps the pecan topping from hardening and the cake from drying out in the cold. It will last for about 3, 4 days maximum this way. Storing in the refrigerator it will last up to 7 days.

You can also freeze leftovers. All you have to do is place the slices in the freezer until they are firm. Then wrap them in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container or reusable bag. The cake will last up to 3 months. Just allow the slices to come to room temperature before serving and enjoying again.

Use up any leftover pecans in my Pecan Pie Dip and Turtle Pie, or this baked Pecan Pie Cheesecake!

Super Important Recipe Notes

This recipe is straight forward and easy to follow, but there are four important things I want to mention.

Prep your pan well. The most defeating and deflating moment is when you turn out your cake and it falls apart or sticks to the pan. I recommend cutting out a round piece of parchment to sit in the bottom of you pan. In addition to that you want to grease the pan well with either nonstick spray or butter.

Refrigerate the pecan mixture. After you make the pecan mixture on the stove and poor it into your prepped cake pan, it is pretty loose. Refrigerating while you make the vanilla cake allows it to firm up. Then when you poor the vanilla cake batter over the top, it will keep the batter from sinking to the bottom and pushing the pecan mixture up the sides.

Always work with room temperature ingredients (for the vanilla cake). This means you have to wait a little bit for the ingredients to warm up but they will incorporate into the batter so much better. When you bake the cake it will bake more evenly too.

Whisk, whisk, whisk the sugar and eggs until they are fluffy and pale. For a light and airy crumb you need to dissolve the sugar while incorporate air into the sugar and eggs. This only happens with a lot of whisking, well not a lot, but 3 to 5 minutes of whisking. You arm will get tired but I guarantee it will be well worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

How long do I wait to flip my upside down cake?

My rule of thumb is 8 to 10 minutes after you remove your cake from the oven. This can be tricky because too soon it will fall apart and too late the gooey topping will stick to the pan. So set a timer and be ready with your serving dish or plate.

How do I flip my upside down cake?

The best way to do this is by setting your serving dish or plate over top of the cake pan. Carefully arrange your hands so you can easily flip it over in one swoop. I like to give my cake pan a pat on the top before gently pulling it off the top. Don’t forget to run a butter knife around the perimeter of the cake right when it is removed from the oven (the sides will stick if you don’t).

Can I make Pecan Upside Down Cake ahead of time?

Yes, this cake can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. I actually prefer to make it ahead of time because the flavors are even better the next day. Once the cake is baked, store it at room temperature in an airtight container or on a serving dish or plate wrapped in plastic wrap.

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Enjoy Entirely, Elizabeth
Cut out of the Pecan Upside Down Cake with a slice on the side.

Pecan Upside Down Cake

Elizabeth Swoish
This Pecan Upside Down Cake recipe is easy, delicious, and baked in a single cake pan. It is layers of gooey pecan and moist vanilla cake. It is sure to become a family favorite.
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Appetizer
Servings 10 slices
Calories 374 kcal


  • 10 inch baking pan - I recommend Fat Daddio's cake pans
  • hand mixer - with beater attachment
  • shallow skillet or pan


Pecan Mixture

  • cup light corn syrup
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans - chopped or halves

Vanilla Cake

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs - room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream - room temperature
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter - melted and slightly cooled
  • ¼ cup milk; - room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • Preheat oven to 350 °F
  • Prepare a 10 inch cake pan by placing a parchment circle in the bottom of your cake pan. Liberally spray it with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter. Set aside.

Pecan Mixture

  • In a saucepan, add the corn syrup, butter, brown sugar, salt and cook over medium heat. Remove from heat once the mixture has melted.
  • Add the pecans and stir until they are well coated in the syrup.
  • Pour the pecan mixture into the prepared cake pan, evenly spread it out. Refrigerate while you make the vanilla cake batter.

Vanilla Cake

  • To a large bowl add the granulated sugar and eggs. Whisk for 3 to 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy.
  • Add the sour cream, melted butter, milk, and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined.
  • Add the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Fold together until just combined, careful to not overmix.
  • Pour the vanilla cake batter over the chilled pecan mixture, evenly spread it out.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick test comes out clean. The cake should be golden brown and released from the sides of the cake pan.
  • Remove from the oven and immediately run a butter knife around the perimeter of the cake. This is to release any stick sides and is essential.
  • Cool for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Place a serving dish or plate overtop of the cake pan. Arrange both hands on either side of the cake pan and swiftly flip both the cake pan and serving dish/ plate.
  • Remove the cake pan from the cake. If any pecans or filling are left behind, scoop it out and place it on top of the cake.
  • Allow it to cool completely before cutting into 10 equal slices and serving.



Storing Information:

  • At room temperature, covered, for up to 4 days.
  • In the refrigerator, covered, for up to 7 days.
  • In the freezer, up to 3 months: Place the slices in the freezer until they are firm. Then wrap them in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container or reusable bag. Allow the slices to come to room temperature before serving and enjoying again.

Make Ahead Information:

  • This Pecan Upside Down Cake can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Once the cake is baked, store it at room temperature in an airtight container or on a serving dish or plate wrapped in plastic wrap.

Ingredient Substitutions (equal amount swaps):

  • Unsalted butter use salted butter. Be sure to omit the salt or it will be a very salty upside down cake.
  • Light corn syrup use dark corn syrup.
  • Sour cream use Greek yogurt. 
  • Melted butter (in the cake ONLY) use vegetable oil.
  • Milk use buttermilk or half and half.

Metric conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information.

Tried this recipe?Feel free to share a rating and comment below. Don’t forget to tag me on social media, or use the hashtag #EntirelyElizabeth – I would love to see what you’ve made!
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By Elizabeth Swoish on November 10th, 2022
Elizabeth Swoish holding a camera up to her eye taking a photo.

About Elizabeth Swoish

Elizabeth Swoish is the founder and CEO of Entirely Elizabeth. She is a self-taught foodie and mocktail enthusiast with a business degree in data analysis. Read Elizabeth's food journey or connect on your favorite social media channels.

11 thoughts on “Pecan Upside Down Cake”

    • Hi Christina,
      Yes. Definitely use unsalted pecans. And you will want to flip the cake out as directed and store on your serving plate. If you leave it in the pan and wait to flip the cake before serving, it will stick to the pan and not come out.
      Hope this helps! Please come back and let me know your thoughts.

  1. 5 stars
    This Pecan Upside Down Cake is a game-changer! Easy to make, wonderfully moist, and the perfect blend of pecan and vanilla flavors. A solid 5-star delight!

  2. 5 stars
    This cake was easy and absolutely scrumptious! Pecans are my favorite nut, and now I have a new way to use them. Will definitely be making this cake again.

  3. 5 stars
    My mom is a pecan pie fanatic so I made this for her last weekend on Mother’s Day. We all devoured it. Not a crumb left at the end of the day and my mom said she might like it even better than pecan pie. Thanks for such a great recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this recipe this week for an event, but the event was cancelled so family and neighbors were blessed with the delicious cake. I followed the recipe, but added a few extra pecans – so yummy. Everyone said it should be included for Thanksgiving desserts!

  5. 5 stars
    I discovered this recipe yesterday on IG…decided to immediately make up. It was very yummy. The cake portion is very sponge like, moist and very flavorful (I had to use half n half and sour cream) because that is what I had on hand. Full disclosure, I had a senior moment making the Pecan mixture and only added a 1/4 c of butter (my mistake, not the recipes). Flavor was still present but my Pecan “topper” was a little dense. Easy recipe and quick to put together. Will make this again soon and use that full 1/2 c of butter!!!!


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