3 Make-Ahead Recipes for your ESPN College Football Playoff National Championship Party

Well it’s going to be a battle of the Tigers vs. Tigers as #1 LSU goes against #3 Clemson at the College Football Playoff National Championship game! The teams will be battling it out at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on January 13 at 8PM EST, but we’ll all be able to watch live on ESPN and via the ESPN App.

Whether you’ll be hosting friends and family at your home on Monday night, or want to prep a fun dish to contribute to a friend’s party, you’re probably in need of a few easy college football game day recipes that can be made in advance.

I’ve pulled together three easy recipes you can make over the weekend, and have ready to enjoy well before kickoff at 8PM EST. (That’s right—no need to rush home from the office or take the day off to prep. I mean…unless you want to!)

First up, two easy ways to serve up some LSU and Clemson team spirit!

1. LSU Tiger Bundt Cake with Southern Buttermilk Icing

Even though it’s #1 LSU’s first time in the College Football Playoff National Championship, the Tigers will enjoy a major home-state advantage playing just 80 miles away from their Baton Rouge campus. There’s nothing like a passionate hometown crowd, and those fiery Louisiana fans at the Superdome may give them just the edge they need.

The LSU fans at your gameday party will be cheering just as loudly once you slice into this surprising LSU Tiger Striped Bundt Cake. From the outside it just looks like a simple southern pound cake, but pull out a slice and reveal the purple and gold tiger strips marbling throughout the cake. A tangy southern buttermilk icing (died purple, of course!) will taste almost as sweet as a championship win.

Click here for the recipe for this LSU Tiger Bundt Cake with Southern Buttermilk Icing.

2. Clemson DIY Pimento Cheese Dip Board

The Clemson Tigers have dominated the field each time winning their last 29 consecutive games, but can they go for 30 to become the first team to win back-to-back College Football Playoff National Championship titles?

The Clemson fans at your house will be able to keep their eyes on the game and their team spirit up thanks to this super cute Clemson-themed DIY Pimento Cheese Dip Board.


It wouldn’t be a proper college football game day in the South without a batch of classic pimento cheese, and this version gets a special Clemson twist with the addition of blue cheese in honor of Clemson University Blue Cheese—the legendary cheese that was invented and is still produced on the CU campus today.

Use a knife to slice off the little round bumps on the bottom of a couple orange bell peppers and arrange them on the pimento cheese to make the perfect Tiger Paw garnish. Add crackers, carrots, apple slices and a pile of my easy homemade purple sweet potato chips for the perfect orange and purple snack to enjoy while watching the game live on ESPN.

Click here to get the recipe and learn how to make this Clemson DIY Pimento Cheese Dip Board

And finally…a taste of N’awlins!

3. New Orleans Style Muffaletta Sandwich Bites

With the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship game taking place in New Orleans this year, adding some of that NOLA flavor to your gameday menu is a must.

New Orleans is an incredible food city and you can’t go wrong with any of their local staples like gumbo, jambalaya or powdered sugar-dusted beignets, but my pick for the best make-ahead football recipe is a classic New Orleans Style Muffaletta.

These loaded sandwiches are filled with cheese, Italian deli meats like salami and mortadella, then topped off with a tangy olive spread. The entire sandwich gets wrapped up and weighted down overnight in the fridge to let all the ingredients meld together into the absolute most flavorful sandwich you’ve ever eaten!

Unlike other sandwiches that usually need to be made and eaten right away, muffalettas are better after a day or two in the fridge—which means you can make it on Saturday or Sunday then have it ready to enjoy with your friends during the Monday night game on Jan 13. It’s ideal whether you’ll be watching the game on ESPN at your own home, or packing it up to bring to a potluck.

We might not all be able to make it to the Superdome, but with ESPN on the big screen and one of these in their hands, your guests will feel like they’re right there rooting along with the rest of the crowd.

Click here for the recipe for New Orleans Style Muffaletta Sandwich Bites


I hope these recipes inspire you to make some fun snacks to enjoy with your family and friends when you tune in on January 13 to the College Football Playoff National Championship at 8PM EST on ESPN or via the ESPN App.

For more easy gameday party recipes and entertaining ideas, check out my Ultimate ESPN College Football Playoff Party board on Pinterest. And visit ESPN.com for all the College Football Playoff National Championship previews and highlights.
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This post is sponsored by ESPN in collaboration with Pinterest. Thank you for supporting the partners who make it possible for me to keep bringing you more great recipes and party ideas!

LSU Tiger Stripe Bundt Cake with Southern Buttermilk Icing

The LSU fans at your gameday party will be cheering even louder than they do in Death Valley once you slice into this surprising LSU Tiger Striped Bundt Cake.

From the outside it just looks like a simple southern pound cake, but pull out a slice and reveal the purple and gold tiger strips marbling throughout the cake. A tangy southern buttermilk icing (died purple, of course!) will taste almost as sweet as a championship win.

Rooting for another team or want to serve this during a holiday or birthday party? Just swap the colors for any two that you love. (You can also add a third by dividing the batter in threes.) Note that no matter what colors you choose, I recommend you use gel food coloring instead of the liquid kind because the colors are more vibrant and it won't affect the texture of your cake or your icing. You can find gel food coloring at most baking and craft stores, or online on Amazon.

This cake can be made a day or two in advance. Store it at cool room temperature under a cake dome, or wrap loosely with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge. This cake serves 12 generously, but can also be cut into smaller slices for a larger party or tailgate. 

Pair this cake with my LSU Spiked Blueberry Vodka Lemonade Cocktail!

LSU Tiger Stripe Bundt Cake with Southern Buttermilk Icing

Yields 1 bundt cake (about 12 servings)

Ingredients
For the cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup butter, melted
5 large eggs
1 cup cold whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilaa extract
1/8 teaspoon violet gel food coloring (such as Wilton gel colors)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoons yellow gel food coloring
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons fresh orange zest

For the buttermilk icing
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3-5 tablespoons buttermilk
2 oz cream cheese, softened
violet gel food coloring

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-15 cup bundt or tube pan with baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In the base of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine sugar, melted butter, and eggs, and whip for five minutes until frothy and pale yellow. Add the milk and vanilla and mix in until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix only until fully combined and smooth.

Remove about 1/3 of the batter to a separate bowl. Add the violet food coloring and thee almond extract to this third of batter (thee smaller amount) and mix until the color is even. Set aside.

Repeat with the larger amount of batter, the yellow food coloring, orange extract, and orange zest. Mix until even.

Pour 1/3 of the yellow batter into the prepared bundt pan. Top with dollops of the purple batter. Repeat layering the remaining batter. Do not swirl the batter—it will settle into the tiger pattern during baking.

Bake about 1 hour, or until the cake is fully set, has pulled away from the edges slightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake cool in pan 10 minutes before turning over onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the buttermilk icing: Use an electric mixer to whisk together confectioner’s sugar, salt, almond extract, softened cream cheese, and 3 tablespoons of buttermilk. Whisk until smooth, adding more buttermilk a teaspoon or so at a time until it reaches desired consistency. Dye with the violet gel food coloring.

Once cake has cooled, turn over and trim the bottom to make a flat surface, then place onto a serving platter. Drizzle with icing. Let icing set 20 minutes before serving.

Store at room temperature under a cake dome.

New Orleans Style Muffaletta Sandwich Bites

New Orleans Style Muffaletta Sandwiches are loaded sandwiches made on crusty Italian bread filled with cheese, Italian deli meats like salami and mortadella, topped off with a tangy homemade olive spread. The entire sandwich gets wrapped up tightly in plastic wrap, and weighted down overnight in the fridge to let all the ingredients meld together into the absolute most flavorful sandwich you’ve ever eaten!

Unlike other sandwiches that usually need to be made and eaten right away, muffalettas are better after a day or two in the fridge so remember to plan in advance! These are perfect for football parties, picnics, packed lunches, and potlucks!

New Orleans’ Style Muffaletta Sandwich Bites
Feel free to swap in your favorite Italian deli meats for the ones listed below.

Makes about 2 dozen mini sandwiches


Ingredients
For the olive spread
1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives
1/4 cup kalamata olives (pitted)
1 cup giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables)
1/4 cup sliced pepperoncini or banana peppers
1/3 cup capers
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil

For the sandwich
4 large crusty ciabatta or panini rolls (about 6 - 8 inches long each)

1 pound sliced provolone or mozzarella cheese
1 pound genoa salami
1/2 pound mortadella
1/2 pound soppressata
1/2 pound pepperoni

Toothpicks and olives, for garnish

Directions
Make the olive spread: Combine all the olive spread ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined but still chunky.

Make the sandwiches
Cut the rolls open and spread both halves generously with the olive spread. Layer in the meat and cheese, evenly distributing it among the sandwiches. Close the sandwiches and wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap. Place on a baking sheet and top with a heavy gast iron pan, a stack of books or other heavy objects to press the sandwiches. Place in the refrigerator with he weight on top and chill at least three hours and up to 48 hours.

To serve, unwrap the sandwiches and use a sharp knife to cut into triangles. Garnish each triangle with a toothpick and an olive (optional) and serve.

Clemson Pimento Cheese Dip Board with Homemade Purple Sweet Potato Dippers

This Clemson-inspired pimento cheese dip gets a kick from a bit of blue cheese in honor of the famous Clemson University Blue Cheese that was created and is still produced on the university campus. If you’re unable to get this cheese, feel free to replace it with your own favorite or just use additional cheddar if you prefer.

Pair this dip with crackers, apple slices, carrots, and a batch of my easy homemade purple sweet potato chips (recipe included below) for the perfect orange and purple team spirit snack.

Both the dip and the chips can be made in advance. Store the dip, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The chips are best kept in an air-tight container on the counter for up to 1-2 days. 

Serve this dip with my Clemson Blood Orange Margaritas!


Clemson Pimento Cheese Dip Board with Homemade Purple Sweet Potato Dippers

Ingredients
For the pimento cheese dip
8oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (by hand or a food processor)
2oz crumbled blue cheese (optional; preferably Clemson University Blue Cheese)
1 8oz jar pimentos or roasted red peppers, drained and finely chopped
2oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Worcesteshire sauce
1/2 teaspoons dried chile flakes


For the board
2 purple sweet potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt

2 orange bell peppers
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
1 tart apple, sliced
1 sleeve crackers (such as saltines, butter crackers, or water crackers)

Directions
Make the pimento cheese by combining the cheddar, blue cheese, pimentos, cream cheese, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, and chile flakes in the base of a food processor and pulse until evenly combined. Transfer to a covered container and chill.

Make the purple chips:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the purple sweet potatoes into 1/8” thick pieces and toss with olive oil and salt. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes or until cooked through and crispy. 

Assemble the board:
Place pimento cheese in a serving bowl and place on a cheese board or serving platter.

Cut the bottom of both bell peppers off and divide into individual rounds. Arrange on dip in shape of the Clemson Tiger Paw.

Slice the rest of the pepper and arrange on board along with the carrot sticks, apple slices, crackers, and cooled sweet potato chips.

Clemson Blood Orange Margaritas


Root for your faves with this easy and refreshing blood orange margarita. Can't find blood orange juice? Feel free to swap in regular orange juice and just add a dash of red food coloring--or even a spirit like Campari to get that perfect shade of Clemson orange.

And for the perfect finishing touch, make a batch of this easy homemade purple margarita salt using purple gel food coloring and regular kosher salt. It just takes a few seeconds to make, but it will make these fun Clemson margaritas extra special.

The homemade salt for these margaritas can be made days (or even weeks!) in advance, and will keep indefinitely as long as you store it in a cool dry place. (A zipped baggie in your pantry should do the trick!)

Having trouble getting the salt to stick to your cups? Swap brush the rim of your glass with corn syrup or honey then dip into the salt. It'll stay on perfectly AND taste delicious!

Go tigers!


Clemson Blood Orange Margaritas
Serves 8

Ingredients
For the purple salt
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon violet gel food coloring

For the margaritas
2 cups blood orange juice (fresh or bottled)
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups gold tequila
1/4 cup orange liqueur (such as triple sec or cointreau)

Ice for serving

Directions
Combine salt and gel food coloring in a zipped plastic baggie. Close the baggie, then use your hands to massage the food color into the salt until it is evenly distributed and the salt is purple. (Can be made in advance. Store in a sealed container in a cool dry place. Will keep indefinitely.)

Make the margaritas. In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine blood orange juice, lime juice, tequila, and orange liqueur. Chill.

To serve, rub outside of cup or glass with lemon wedge or water and dip into the purple salt. Fill cup with ice and pour in margarita.

LSU Spiked Blueberry Lemonade

Whether they’re geaux-ing for the Tigers or not, all your College Football Playoff guests will be a fan of this easy purple and gold-inspired party cocktail made with fresh lemon juice, blueberries, and vodka.

Want to make it family-friendly? Skip the vodka and let everyone enjoy this festive purple lemonade

To get this bright purple color, I used a dash of violet gel food coloring, but feel free to skip it if you'd prefer. The blueberries still impart a gorgeous purple shade to this refreshing grown-up lemonade.

Click here for more College Football Playoff recipes and party ideas.

LSU Spiked Blueberry Lemonade
Serves 8

Ingredients
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups vodka
1/4 teaspoon violet gel food coloring (optional, but enhances the purple shade of the drink!)
Ice
Garnish: fresh blueberries, lemon slices, lemon rind twists

Directions
Combine lemon juice, blueberries, sugar, and 1 cup water in a blender and puree until smooth and sugar is dissolved—about 2 minutes. Use a mesh sieve to strain into a large pitcher or punch bowl. Discard any seeds and solids caught in the pitcher. Stir in the remaining 5 cups water, vodka, and food coloring (if using). Chill until serving time.

Torrijas (Spanish Style French Toast with Anise Syrup)

I absolutely freaked out the first time I tried torrijas. A coworker had given my mom a tray of the syrup-soaked French toasts as a gift one year, and she brought it home for us all to share. Impatient as ever, took my first bite straight from the platter, and found that the flavors of almond and anise and honey were so intensely and perfectly matched with every sweet thing I’ve ever loved that I felt an instant sadness knowing the bite could not last forever.

I immediately demanded that my mom teach me how to make them, but not being much of a dessert maker, she sort of just handed me a Puerto Rican cookbook and encouraged me to figure it out myself. I did, and now you can, too.

Unlike the type of French toast typically made for breakfast, torrijas are a sweeter dish meant to be enjoyed as dessert and can be eaten both hot out of the pan or cooled to room temperature.

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Torrijas (Spanish Style French Toast with Anise Syrup)
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 thick, stale French or Italian-style baguette

For the syrup
1 ½ cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ teaspoon anise extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

For the batter:
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk

4 tablespoons butter
Flaky sea salt, for garnish

Directions
Slice the baguette on the bias into 1” thick slices.

Make the syrup: combine the water, sugar, honey, orange zest, salt, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil 1 minute. Lower heat and let simmer 7-10 minutes, or until reduced into a thin syrup. Remove from heat and stir in extracts.

Whisk together eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Dip the bread in the batter and let soak about 30 seconds to 1 minute (do not let the bread get too soggy).

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and fry the battered bread in batches about 3 minutes per side or until golden. Repeat with the rest of the bread, adding more butter as needed.

Place the torrijas on a slightly concave or rimmed serving platter and cover fully with the syrup. Let soak at least 20 minutes before serving. Best served warm or room temperature.   I also like to finish it off with a bit of flaky sea salt.
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