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Themes in CakePHP are simply plugins that focus on providing template files. See the section on Creating Your Own Plugins. You can take advantage of themes, making it easy to switch the look and feel of your page quickly. In addition to template files, they can also provide helpers and cells if your theming requires that. When using cells and helpers from your theme, you will need to continue using the plugin syntax.

To use themes, set the theme name in your controller’s action or beforeRender() callback:

class ExamplesController extends AppController
    // For CakePHP before 3.1
    public $theme = 'Modern';

    public function beforeRender(\Cake\Event\Event $event)

        // For CakePHP before 3.5

Theme template files need to be within a plugin with the same name. For example, the above theme would be found in plugins/Modern/src/Template. It’s important to remember that CakePHP expects PascalCase plugin/theme names. Beyond that, the folder structure within the plugins/Modern/src/Template folder is exactly the same as src/Template/.

For example, the view file for an edit action of a Posts controller would reside at plugins/Modern/src/Template/Posts/edit.ctp. Layout files would reside in plugins/Modern/src/Template/Layout/. You can provide customized templates for plugins with a theme as well. If you had a plugin named ‘Cms’, that contained a TagsController, the Modern theme could provide plugins/Modern/src/Template/Plugin/Cms/Tags/edit.ctp to replace the edit template in the plugin.

If a view file can’t be found in the theme, CakePHP will try to locate the view file in the src/Template/ folder. This way, you can create master template files and simply override them on a case-by-case basis within your theme folder.

If your theme also acts as a plugin, don’t forget to ensure it is loaded in your application’s bootstrap method. For example:

// Load our plugin theme residing in the folder /plugins/Modern

Theme Assets

Because themes are standard CakePHP plugins, they can include any necessary assets in their webroot directory. This allows for easy packaging and distribution of themes. Whilst in development, requests for theme assets will be handled by Cake\Routing\Dispatcher. To improve performance for production environments, it’s recommended that you Improve Your Application’s Performance.

All of CakePHP’s built-in helpers are aware of themes and will create the correct paths automatically. Like template files, if a file isn’t in the theme folder, it will default to the main webroot folder:

// When in a theme with the name of 'purple_cupcake'

// creates a path like

// and links to