Easy pineapple layer cake starts with a cake mix and Cool Whip topping and gets infused with crushed pineapple and juice, making it super moist, light and fluffy.
Also known as pineapple sunshine cake, this recipe gets an upgrade with a layered presentation and pineapple flowers so it’s worthy of a birthday cake, holiday dessert, or dinner parties at home.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
This dessert recipe doesn’t leave you feeling full or heavy. It’s got fruit in it so that makes it healthy, right?
- Incredibly moist. It starts with a box of yellow cake mix and pineapple juice is infused into the cake layers.
- Easy and delicious! The filling and frosting start with frozen whipped topping. It’s light and fluffy with bits of pineapple throughout.
- Dress it up for parties. Decorate the top with easy-to-make pineapple flowers for a show-stopping dessert centerpiece.
AKA Pineapple Sunshine Cake
You may recognize this recipe as pineapple sunshine cake, a classic dessert made with yellow cake mix, crushed pineapple, whipped topping and pudding mix. It’s been popular at potluck parties for decades.
It’s traditionally made in a sheet cake pan and cut into squares so it’s an ideal cake recipe for beginners or self-proclaimed “non-bakers.” However, I wanted to dress it up for holidays and special occasions by making it a layer cake with dried pineapple flowers on top.
When to Serve It
- Make this cake for Easter brunch because it’s a crowd pleaser and tastes like springtime! Can also add it to Easter dinner.
- Serve it for a Christmas dinner party. There’s something very festive about pineapple at Christmastime.
- This makes a fantastic birthday cake for a simple birthday celebrations at home. And the presentation makes it a lovely centerpiece for a dessert table.
Ingredients & Notes
- Boxed Yellow Cake Mix – use your favorite brand.
- Eggs – large eggs at room temperature.
- Vegetable Oil
- Canned Crushed Pineapple – you’ll use the juice and the pineapple bits separately so drain the juice into a bowl to use for the cake portion.
- Instant vanilla pudding – It’s added to the frosting rather than the cake batter so it adds tons of flavor.
- Cool Whip topping – Make sure it’s thawed in the fridge before using. This is part of what makes this cake so iconic. You’ll need 2 containers to make the layer cake so you have enough to go in between the layers as well as on top.
How to Make It
- Simply make the cake layers according to the cake mix directions, and let cool enough to handle.
- Use a long serrated knife to cut the dome off the top of the cake so it’s flat. Pour pineapple juice evenly on top of each layer and let it soak in.
- Meanwhile, combine Cool Whip topping, pudding mix, and crushed pineapple together.
- Build the cake layers by adding the Cool Whip filling on top of each cake before stacking the next layer. Finish with the frosting on the sides and top.
Bake the cake layers and let them cool completely. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours or wrap each layer separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
The filling can be made and refrigerated overnight. Store it in an airtight container and give it a quick stir before using it to frost the cake with. I don’t recommend freezing the filling.
Bake the cake batter in 6-inch round pans for a 3-layer cake that looks tall and impressive. You can make it in two 8-inch rounds but it won’t be as tall.
Dried Pineapple Flowers
I use this tutorial to make dried pineapple flowers. She does such a great job explaining the process and showing images that are easy to follow.
They’re actually quite easy to make, they just take some time. It took me the better half of a Sunday to dry them so make sure you’ve carved out several hours.
- The trick is to make sure you use a sharp serrated knife to cut the pineapple super thin.
- Place the slices in a muffin tin and put in an oven at 225 degrees F.
- Heat them for about an hour or until they’re dry with fringed edges.
A great bonus is that they can be made several days ahead before you need to use them. Then you can arrange them like a waterfall down the side when you’re ready to serve.
How Long Can It Sit Out?
Since this cake has Cool Whip as a main ingredient it does need to be stored in the refrigerator. However, Cool Whip is much more stable than real whipped cream and it should be fine on the counter or table for a couple of hours.
- Use a long serrated knife to cut the dome off the top of the cake so it sits level when you layer it.
- When adding the icing on the base cake layer, use a large spoon or spatula to place large dollops of whipped topping. Then gently spread the dollops together without disturbing the cake and crumbs.
- Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Use toothpicks or skewers inserted in top of the cake so the cover doesn’t stick to the frosting.
- Freeze the cake portion for up to 3 months, then thaw in the fridge overnight and make the frosting fresh when ready to assemble.
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- 1 box (15.25-ounce) Yellow Cake Mix
- 3 large egg
- 1 cup water (or amount according to package directions)
- ⅓ cup Vegetable Oil (or amount according to package directions)
- 1 cup pineapple juice from crushed pineapple can (see below)
- 1 ½ containers (8-ounces each) Cool Whip frozen topping – thawed
- 1 (3.4 ounce) package Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
- 1 (20-ounce) can Crushed Pineapple in juice – drain and reserve juice for cake layers
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine cake mix, eggs, oil, and water according to package directions.
- Pour batter into three 6-inch cake pans or two 9-inch cake pans that have been sprayed well with non-stick cooking spray.
- Bake for 35 minutes for 6-inch pans or 25 minutes for 9-inch pans, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let layers cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes (still in pans).
- Remove layers from pans and sit right side up. Let cool enough to handle the cakes, then cut the “dome” off the top of each cake so they are flat on top.
- Pour the pineapple juice over each cake layer and let it soak into cakes. Let cakes cool completely.
To Make Frosting:
- Combine the whipped topping, pudding mix, and crushed pineapple until well blended.
- Spread layer of frosting on 1 cake; you can be generous.
- Place second cake layer on top and add frosting; continue with third layer and frost the entire cake.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Store lightly covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days.