Database Configuration

Your app/config/database.php file is where your database configuration all takes place. A fresh install doesn’t have a database.php, so you’ll need to make a copy of database.php.default. Once you’ve made a copy and renamed it you’ll see the following:


var $default = array('driver'   => 'mysql',
                     'connect'  => 'mysql_connect',
                     'host'     => 'localhost',
                     'login'    => 'user',
                     'password' => 'password',
                     'database' => 'project_name',
                     'prefix'   => '');

Replace the information provided by default with the database connection information for your application.

One note about the prefix key: the string you enter there will be prepended to any SQL call that Cake makes to your database when working with tables. You define it here once so you don’t have to specify it in other places. It also allows you to follow Cake’s table naming conventions if you’re on a host that only gives you a single database. Note: for HABTM join tables, you only add the prefix once: prefix_apples_bananas, not prefix_apples_prefix_bananas.

CakePHP supports the following database drivers:

  1. mysql
  2. postgres
  3. sqlite
  4. pear-drivername (so you might enter pear-mysql, for example)
  5. adodb-drivername

The ‘connect’ key in the $default connection allows you to specify whether or not the database connection will be treated as persistent or not. Read the comments in the database.php.default file for help on specifying connection types for your database setup.

Your database tables should also follow the following conventions:

  1. Table names used by Cake should consist of English words in plural, like “users”, “authors” or “articles”. Note that corresponding models have singular names.
  2. Your tables must have a primary key named ‘id’.
  3. If you plan to relate tables, use foreign keys that look like: ‘article_id’. The table name is singular, followed by an underscore, followed by ‘id’.
  4. If you include a ‘created’ and/or ‘modified’ column in your table, Cake will automatically populate the field when appropriate.

You’ll also notice that there is a $test connection setting included in the database.php file. Fill out this configuration (or add other similarly formatted configurations) and use it in your application by placing something like:

var $useDbConfig = 'test';

Inside one of your models. You can add any number of additional connection settings in this manner.

Global Configuration

CakePHP’s global configuration can be found in app/config/core.php. While we really dislike configuration files, it just had to be done. There are a few things you can change here, and the notes on each of these settings can be found within the comments of the core.php file.

DEBUG: Set this to different values to help you debug your application as you build it. Specifying this setting to a non-zero value will force Cake to print out the results of pr( ) and debug( ) function calls, and stop flash messages from forwarding automatically. Setting it to 2 or higher will result in SQL statements being printed at the bottom of the page.

Also when in debug mode (where DEBUG is set to 1 or higher), Cake will render certain generated error pages, i.e. “Missing Controller,” “Missing Action,” etc. In production mode, however (where DEBUG is set to 0), Cake renders the “Not Found” page, which can be overridden in app/views/errors/error404.thtml.

CAKE_SESSION_COOKIE: Change this value to the name of the cookie you’d like to use for user sessions in your Cake app.

CAKE_SECURITY: Change this value to indicate your preferred level of sessions checking. Cake will timeout sessions, generate new session ids, and delete old session files based on the settings you provide here. The possible values are:

  1. high: sessions time out after 20 minutes of inactivity, and session id’s are regenerated on each request
  2. medium: sessions time out after 200 minutes of inactivity
  3. low: sessions time out after 600 minutes of inactivity

CAKE_SESSION_SAVE: Specify how you’d like session data saved. Possible values are:

  1. cake: Session data is saved in tmp/ inside your Cake installation
  2. php: Session data saved as defined in php.ini
  3. database: Session data saved to database connection defined by the ‘default’ key.

Routes Configuration

“Routing” is a pared-down pure-PHP mod_rewrite-alike that can map URLs to controller/action/params and back. It was added to Cake to make pretty URLs more configurable and to divorce us from the mod_rewrite requirement. Using mod_rewrite, however, will make your address bar look much more tidy.

Routes are individual rules that map matching URLs to specific controllers and actions. Routes are configured in the app/config/routes.php file. They are set-up like this:

Route Pattern

$Route->connect (
    'action'=>'actionname', 'firstparam')


  1. URL is the regular expression Cake URL you wish to map,
  2. controllername is the name of the controller you wish to invoke,
  3. actionname is the name of the controller’s action you wish to invoke,
  4. and firstparam is the value of the first parameter of the action you’ve specified.

Any parameters following firstparam will also be passed as parameters to the controller action.

The following example joins all the urls in /blog to the BlogController. The default action will be BlogController::index().

Route Example

$Route->connect ('/blog/:action/*', array('controller'=>'Blog', 'action'=>'index'));

A URL like /blog/history/05/june can then be handled like this:

Route Handling in a Controller

class BlogController extends AppController
 function history ($year, $month=null)
   // .. Display appropriate content

The ‘history’ from the URL was matched by :action from the Blog’s route. URL elements matched by * are passed to the active controller’s handling method as parameters, hence the $year and $month. Called with URL /blog/history/05, history() would only be passed one parameter, 05.

The following example is a default CakePHP route used to set up a route for PagesController::display(‘home’). Home is a view which can be overridden by creating the file /app/views/pages/home.thtml.

Setting the Default Route

$Route->connect ('/', array('controller'=>'Pages', 'action'=>'display', 'home'));

Advanced Routing Configuration: Admin Routing and Webservices

There are some settings in /app/config/core.php you can take advantage of in order to organize your application and craft URLs that make the most sense to you and your users.

The first of these is admin routing. If your application has a ProductsController as well as a NewsController, you might want to set up some special URLs so users with administrative privileges can access special actions in those controllers. To keep the URLs nice and easy to read, some people prefer /admin/products/add and /admin/news/post to something like /products/adminAdd and /news/adminPost.

To enable this, first, uncomment the CAKE_ADMIN line in your /app/config/core.php file. The default value of CAKE_ADMIN is ‘admin’, but you can change it to whatever you like. Remember this string, because you’ll need to prepend it to your administrative actions in your controller. So, admin actions in this case would be named admin_actionName(). Here’s some examples of desired URLs and possible CAKE_ADMIN and controller action settings:

/admin/products/add          CAKE_ADMIN = 'admin'
                             name of action in ProductsController = 'admin_add()'

/superuser/news/post         CAKE_ADMIN = 'superuser'
                             name of action in NewsController = 'superuser_post()'

/admin/posts/delete          CAKE_ADMIN = 'admin'
                             name of action in PostsController = 'admin_delete()'

Using admin routes allows you to keep your logic organized while making the routing very easy to accomplish. When enabled, you can easily determine in the controller whether an admin route has been accessed by using:


or, assuming ‘admin’ is the value of CAKE_ADMIN:


Please note that enabling admin routes or using them does not enable any sort of authentication or security. You’ll need implement those yourself.

Similarly, you can enable Cake’s webservices routing to make easier there as well. Have a controller action you’d like to expose as a webservice? First, set WEBSERVICES in /app/config/core.php to ‘on’. This enables some automatic routing somewhat similar to admin routing, except that a certain set of route prefixes are enabled:

  1. rss
  2. xml
  3. rest
  4. soap
  5. xmlrpc

What this does is allows you to provide an alternate views that will automatically be available at /rss/controllerName/actionName or /soap/controllerName/actionName. This allows you to create a single action that can have two views: one for normal HTML viewiers, and another for webservices users. By doing this, you can easily allow much of the functionality of your application to be available via webservices.

For example, let’s say I have some logic in my application that tells users who is on the phone in my office. I already have a HTML view for this data, but I want to offer it in XML so it can be used in a desktop widget or handheld application. First I need to enable Cake’s webservice routing:

/app/config/core.php (partial)

 *  The define below is used to turn cake built webservices
 *  on or off. Default setting is off.
    define('WEBSERVICES', 'on');

Next, we need to define a component for the type of webservice you want to handle. For XML, you’d need to include an XmlComponent, with RSS, and RssComponent. Components are defined in /app/controllers/components, and extend the Object class.

Once that’s done, I can structure the logic in my controller just as I normally would:


class PhonesController extends AppController
    function doWhosOnline()
        // this action is where we do all the work of seeing who's on the phone...

        // If I wanted this action to be available via Cake's xml webservices route,
        // I'd need to include a view at /app/views/phones/xml/do_whos_online.thtml.
        // Note: the default view used here is at /app/views/layouts/xml/default.thtml.

        // If a user requests /phones/doWhosOnline, they will get an HTML version.
        // If a user requests /xml/phones/doWhosOnline, they will get the XML version.

(Optional) Custom Inflections Configuration

Cake’s naming conventions can be really nice - you can name your model Box, your controller Boxes, and everything just works out. There are occasions (especially for our non-english speaking friends) where you may run into situations where Cake’s inflector (the class that pluralizes, singularizes, camelCases, and under_scores) might not work as you’d like. If Cake won’t recognize your Foci or Fish, editing the custom inflections configuration file is where you’ll need to go.

Found at /app/config/inflections.php is a list of Cake variables you can use to adjust the pluralization, singularization of classnames in Cake, along with definining terms that shouldn’t be inflected at all (like Fish and Deer, for you outdoorsman cakers) along with irregularities.

Follow the notes inside the file to make adjustments, or use the examples in the file by uncommenting them. You may need to know a little regex before diving in.