One of the features that most frameworks toute is the ability to respond to a request from the route file immediately. For instance, here is how SlimPHP applications are structured (at least initially):

$app = new \Slim\Slim();
$app->get('/hello/:name', function ($name) {
    echo "Hello, $name";

People familiar with this type of application are likely familiar with the Sinatra microframework.

CakePHP has typically been in the opposite camp. Lots of classes to wire up to get a response on the page. Kind of lame, and then you have to integrate with CakePHP’s conventions, which can be frustrating if you simply want to use the framework as a library. It’s quite straightforward to turn CakePHP into a microframework using dispatch filters.

Lets define a simple api. We’ll want to be able to connect arbitrary routes to a callable or a class that has a respond method. This can look like the following:

class ResponseInterface {
    public abstract function respond($request, $response);
class HelloWorld implements ResponseInterface {
    public function respond($request, $response) {
        $response->body('Hello World');
Router::connect('/hello/*', ['callable' => function($request, $response) {
    $response->body('Hello World');
Router::connect('/world/*', ['callable' => 'HelloWorld']);

Controller classes have plumbing to auto-generate responses based on just the CakeRequest and CakeResponse objects, hence why they are necessary. We also implement the ResponseInterface class to make the PHPJava people happy :)

To route these properly, we’ll hook into CakePHP’s dispatch cycle using a custom dispatch filter as follows:

App::uses('DispatcherFilter', 'Routing');
class CallableFilter extends DispatcherFilter {
    public function beforeDispatch(CakeEvent $event) {
        $callable = null;
        if (isset($event->data['request']->params['callable'])) {
            $callable = $event->data['request']->params['callable'];
        if (is_string($callable) && class_exists($callable)) {
            $callable = new $callable;
            $callable->respond($event->data['request'], $event->data['response']);
        } elseif (is_callable($callable)) {
            $callable($event->data['request'], $event->data['response']);
        } else {
            return null;
        return $event->data['response'];

In our CallableFilter, we check for the existence of a callable. For practicality, we’re a bit flexible in this definition and also allow class names to be “callables”. All callable executions are given CakeRequest and a CakeResponse objects, and we automatically call $event->stopPropagation() should the callable be invoked.

To configure our filter, simply attach it to your DispatcherFilter configuration in app/Config/bootstrap.php like so:

Configure::write('Dispatcher.filters', [

And voila! You have a CakePHP microframework.

Some things you can now do with this setup:

  • Configure before and after request filters
  • Setup a templating system (with helper loading)
  • Automatically load model classes based on class name and configuration
  • Figure out how to do reverse routing
  • Reimplement all of the CakePHP dispatching because you refuse to use a full framework ;)

Microframeworks have their place, and while I don’t recommend you implement all of your CakePHP applications using the above setup, it can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.