class Cake\Controller\Controller

Controllers are the ‘C’ in MVC. After routing has been applied and the correct controller has been found, your controller’s action is called. Your controller should handle interpreting the request data, making sure the correct models are called, and the right response or view is rendered. Controllers can be thought of as middle layer between the Model and View. You want to keep your controllers thin, and your models fat. This will help you reuse your code and makes your code easier to test.

Commonly, a controller is used to manage the logic around a single model. For example, if you were building a site for an online bakery, you might have a RecipesController managing your recipes and an IngredientsController managing your ingredients. However, it’s also possible to have controllers work with more than one model. In CakePHP, a controller is named after the primary model it handles.

Your application’s controllers extend the AppController class, which in turn extends the core Controller class. The AppController class can be defined in src/Controller/AppController.php and it should contain methods that are shared between all of your application’s controllers.

Controllers provide a number of methods that handle requests. These are called actions. By default, each public method in a controller is an action, and is accessible from a URL. An action is responsible for interpreting the request and creating the response. Usually responses are in the form of a rendered view, but there are other ways to create responses as well.

The App Controller

As stated in the introduction, the AppController class is the parent class to all of your application’s controllers. AppController itself extends the Cake\Controller\Controller class included in CakePHP. AppController is defined in src/Controller/AppController.php as follows:

namespace App\Controller;

use Cake\Controller\Controller;

class AppController extends Controller

Controller attributes and methods created in your AppController will be available in all controllers that extend it. Components (which you’ll learn about later) are best used for code that is used in many (but not necessarily all) controllers.

You can use your AppController to load components that will be used in every controller in your application. CakePHP provides a initialize() method that is invoked at the end of a Controller’s constructor for this kind of use:

namespace App\Controller;

use Cake\Controller\Controller;

class AppController extends Controller
    public function initialize(): void
        // Always enable the CSRF component.

Request Flow

When a request is made to a CakePHP application, CakePHP’s Cake\Routing\Router and Cake\Routing\Dispatcher classes use Connecting Routes to find and create the correct controller instance. The request data is encapsulated in a request object. CakePHP puts all of the important request information into the $this->request property. See the section on Request for more information on the CakePHP request object.

Controller Actions

Controller actions are responsible for converting the request parameters into a response for the browser/user making the request. CakePHP uses conventions to automate this process and remove some boilerplate code you would otherwise need to write.

By convention, CakePHP renders a view with an inflected version of the action name. Returning to our online bakery example, our RecipesController might contain the view(), share(), and search() actions. The controller would be found in src/Controller/RecipesController.php and contain:

// src/Controller/RecipesController.php

class RecipesController extends AppController
    public function view($id)
        // Action logic goes here.

    public function share($customerId, $recipeId)
        // Action logic goes here.

    public function search($query)
        // Action logic goes here.

The template files for these actions would be templates/Recipes/view.php, templates/Recipes/share.php, and templates/Recipes/search.php. The conventional view file name is the lowercased and underscored version of the action name.

Controller actions generally use Controller::set() to create a context that View uses to render the view layer. Because of the conventions that CakePHP uses, you don’t need to create and render the view manually. Instead, once a controller action has completed, CakePHP will handle rendering and delivering the View.

If for some reason you’d like to skip the default behavior, you can return a Cake\Http\Response object from the action with the fully created response.

In order for you to use a controller effectively in your own application, we’ll cover some of the core attributes and methods provided by CakePHP’s controllers.

Interacting with Views

Controllers interact with views in a number of ways. First, they are able to pass data to the views, using Controller::set(). You can also decide which view class to use, and which view file should be rendered from the controller.

Setting View Variables

Cake\Controller\Controller::set(string $var, mixed $value)

The Controller::set() method is the main way to send data from your controller to your view. Once you’ve used Controller::set(), the variable can be accessed in your view:

// First you pass data from the controller:

$this->set('color', 'pink');

// Then, in the view, you can utilize the data:

You have selected <?= h($color) ?> icing for the cake.

The Controller::set() method also takes an associative array as its first parameter. This can often be a quick way to assign a set of information to the view:

$data = [
    'color' => 'pink',
    'type' => 'sugar',
    'base_price' => 23.95

// Make $color, $type, and $base_price
// available to the view:


Keep in mind that view vars are shared among all parts rendered by your view. They will be available in all parts of the view: the template, the layout and all elements inside the former two.

Setting View Options

If you want to customize the view class, layout/template paths, helpers or the theme that will be used when rendering the view, you can use the viewBuilder() method to get a builder. This builder can be used to define properties of the view before it is created:


The above shows how you can load custom helpers, set the theme and use a custom view class.

Rendering a View

Cake\Controller\Controller::render(string $view, string $layout)

The Controller::render() method is automatically called at the end of each requested controller action. This method performs all the view logic (using the data you’ve submitted using the Controller::set() method), places the view inside its View::$layout, and serves it back to the end user.

The default view file used by render is determined by convention. If the search() action of the RecipesController is requested, the view file in templates/Recipes/search.php will be rendered:

namespace App\Controller;

class RecipesController extends AppController
// ...
    public function search()
        // Render the view in templates/Recipes/search.php
        return $this->render();
// ...

Although CakePHP will automatically call it after every action’s logic (unless you’ve called $this->disableAutoRender()), you can use it to specify an alternate view file by specifying a view file name as first argument of Controller::render() method.

If $view starts with ‘/’, it is assumed to be a view or element file relative to the templates folder. This allows direct rendering of elements, very useful in AJAX calls:

// Render the element in templates/element/ajaxreturn.php

The second parameter $layout of Controller::render() allows you to specify the layout with which the view is rendered.

Rendering a Specific Template

In your controller, you may want to render a different view than the conventional one. You can do this by calling Controller::render() directly. Once you have called Controller::render(), CakePHP will not try to re-render the view:

namespace App\Controller;

class PostsController extends AppController
    public function my_action()

This would render templates/Posts/custom_file.php instead of templates/Posts/my_action.php.

You can also render views inside plugins using the following syntax: $this->render('PluginName.PluginController/custom_file'). For example:

namespace App\Controller;

class PostsController extends AppController
    public function myAction()

This would render plugins/Users/templates/UserDetails/custom_file.php

Content Type Negotiation


Controllers can define a list of view classes they support. After the controller’s action is complete CakePHP will use the view list to perform content-type negotiation. This enables your application to re-use the same controller action to render an HTML view or render a JSON or XML response. To define the list of supported view classes for a controller is done with the viewClasses() method:

namespace App\Controller;

use Cake\View\JsonView;
use Cake\View\XmlView;

class PostsController extends AppController
    public function viewClasses(): array
        return [JsonView::class, XmlView::class];

The application’s View class is automatically used as a fallback when no other view can be selected based on the requests’ Accept header or routing extension. If your application needs to perform different logic for different response formats you can use $this->request->is() to build the required conditional logic. You can also set your controllers’ supported view classes using the addViewClasses() method which will merge the provided views with those held in the viewClasses property.


View classes must implement the static contentType() hook method to participate in content-type negotiation.

New in version 4.5.0: addViewClasses() was added.

Content Type Negotiation Fallbacks

If no View can be matched with the request’s content type preferences, CakePHP will use the base View class. If you want to require content-type negotiation, you can use the NegotiationRequiredView which sets a 406 status code:

public function viewClasses(): array
    // Require Accept header negotiation or return a 406 response.
    return [JsonView::class, NegotiationRequiredView::class];

You can use the TYPE_MATCH_ALL content type value to build your own fallback view logic:

namespace App\View;

use Cake\View\View;

class CustomFallbackView extends View
    public static function contentType(): string
        return static::TYPE_MATCH_ALL;


It is important to remember that match-all views are applied only after content-type negotiation is attempted.

New in version 4.4.0: Prior to 4.4 you must use Request Handling instead of viewClasses().

Using AjaxView

In applications that use hypermedia or AJAX clients, you often need to render view contents without the wrapping layout. You can use the AjaxView that is bundled with the application skeleton:

// In a controller action, or in beforeRender.
if ($this->request->is('ajax')) {

AjaxView will respond as text/html and use the ajax layout. Generally this layout is minimal or contains client specific markup. This replaces usage of RequestHandlerComponent automatically using the AjaxView.

Redirecting to Other Pages

Cake\Controller\Controller::redirect(string|array $url, integer $status)

The redirect() method adds a Location header and sets the status code of a response and returns it. You should return the response created by redirect() to have CakePHP send the redirect instead of completing the controller action and rendering a view.

You can redirect using routing array values:

return $this->redirect([
    'controller' => 'Orders',
    'action' => 'confirm',
    '?' => [
        'product' => 'pizza',
        'quantity' => 5
    '#' => 'top'

Or using a relative or absolute URL:

return $this->redirect('/orders/confirm');
return $this->redirect('');

Or to the referer page:

return $this->redirect($this->referer());

By using the second parameter you can define a status code for your redirect:

// Do a 301 (moved permanently)
return $this->redirect('/order/confirm', 301);

// Do a 303 (see other)
return $this->redirect('/order/confirm', 303);

See the Using Redirects in Component Events section for how to redirect out of a life-cycle handler.

Forwarding to an Action on the Same Controller

Cake\Controller\Controller::setAction($action, $args...)

If you need to forward the current action to a different action on the same controller, you can use Controller::setAction() to update the request object, modify the view template that will be rendered and forward execution to the named action:

// From a delete action, you can render the updated
// list page.

Deprecated since version 4.2.0: Use redirects or call the other action as a method.

Loading Additional Models

Cake\Controller\Controller::fetchModel(string $alias, array $config = [])

The fetchModel() method is useful to load models or ORM tables that are not the controller’s default. Models retrieved with this method will not be set as properties on your controller:

// Get an ElasticSearch model
$articles = $this->fetchModel('Articles', 'Elastic');

// Get a webservices model
$github = $this->fetchModel('GitHub', 'Webservice');

New in version 4.5.0.

Cake\Controller\Controller::fetchTable(string $alias, array $config = [])

The fetchTable() method comes handy when you need to use an ORM table that is not the controller’s default one:

// In a controller method.
$recentArticles = $this->fetchTable('Articles')->find('all', [
        'limit' => 5,
        'order' => 'Articles.created DESC'

New in version 4.3.0: Controller::fetchTable() was added. Prior to 4.3 you need to use Controller::loadModel().


Controller::fetchTable() does not create a proeprty controller property with the name of the table alias, e.g. $this->Articles, as Controller::loadModel() does.

Paginating a Model


This method is used for paginating results fetched by your models. You can specify page sizes, model find conditions and more. See the pagination section for more details on how to use paginate().

The $paginate attribute gives you a way to customize how paginate() behaves:

class ArticlesController extends AppController
    public $paginate = [
        'Articles' => [
            'conditions' => ['published' => 1]

Configuring Components to Load

Cake\Controller\Controller::loadComponent($name, $config = [])

In your Controller’s initialize() method you can define any components you want loaded, and any configuration data for them:

public function initialize(): void
    $this->loadComponent('Comments', Configure::read('Comments'));

Request Life-cycle Callbacks

CakePHP controllers trigger several events/callbacks that you can use to insert logic around the request life-cycle:

Event List

  • Controller.initialize

  • Controller.startup

  • Controller.beforeRedirect

  • Controller.beforeRender

  • Controller.shutdown

Controller Callback Methods

By default the following callback methods are connected to related events if the methods are implemented by your controllers

Cake\Controller\Controller::beforeFilter(EventInterface $event)

Called during the Controller.initialize event which occurs before every action in the controller. It’s a handy place to check for an active session or inspect user permissions.


The beforeFilter() method will be called for missing actions.

Returning a response from a beforeFilter method will not prevent other listeners of the same event from being called. You must explicitly stop the event.

Cake\Controller\Controller::beforeRender(EventInterface $event)

Called during the Controller.beforeRender event which occurs after controller action logic, but before the view is rendered. This callback is not used often, but may be needed if you are calling render() manually before the end of a given action.

Cake\Controller\Controller::afterFilter(EventInterface $event)

Called during the Controller.shutdown event which is triggered after every controller action, and after rendering is complete. This is the last controller method to run.

In addition to controller life-cycle callbacks, Components also provide a similar set of callbacks.

Remember to call AppController’s callbacks within child controller callbacks for best results:

//use Cake\Event\EventInterface;
public function beforeFilter(EventInterface $event)

Controller Middleware

Cake\Controller\Controller::middleware($middleware, array $options = [])

Middleware can be defined globally, in a routing scope or within a controller. To define middleware for a specific controller use the middleware() method from your controller’s initialize() method:

public function initialize(): void

    $this->middleware(function ($request, $handler) {
        // Do middleware logic.

        // Make sure you return a response or call handle()
        return $handler->handle($request);

Middleware defined by a controller will be called before beforeFilter() and action methods are called.

New in version 4.3.0: Controller::middleware() was added.

More on Controllers