As mentioned before, CakePHP 3 introduced the concept of a distinct Validation class that can be used against an arbitrary array of data. You could sort of do this in CakePHP 2, but it was annoying, not well-exposed, and not well-documented.

Assuming you got stuck in an older version of CakePHP - or some other non-CakePHP 3 environment - and want to use the new validation layer, you’ll need to install the cakephp/validation package. Skip this if you are using CakePHP 3 in your app already:

composer require cakephp/validation

Most CakePHP 3 packages can be installed in a standalone way with minimal external dependencies.

Now, let’s start by creating a validator:

# use the class first of course!
use Cake\Validation\Validator;
$validator = new Validator();

Here is a bit of data I want to validate:

$data = [
  'name' => 'camila',
  'age' => 4,
  'intelligence' => 'stupid',
  'position' => 'keyboard',
  'species' => '',

In the 3.x validator, you can easily require the presence of a field:

// should be an empty array
$errors = $validator->errors($data);

Note that this is different from the field being not empty:

$validator->notEmpty('species', 'we need a species for your pet');
// will not be an empty array
$errors = $validator->errors($data);

However, this is not the same as being an string with just whitespace. For that, you need another rule:

$validator->add('species', [
  'notBlank' => [
      'rule' => 'notBlank',
      'message' => "Ain't no such thing as a '   ' species"
// will not be an empty array
$errors = $validator->errors($data);

You can also nest validators. Say my $data array has a field called kittens, which is an array of kitten data. You might want to validate some information about those kittens:

// add custom rules here
$kittenValidator = new Validator();
// Connect the nested validators.
$validator->addNestedMany('kittens', $kittenValidator);
// includes errors from nested data as well

Some rules - like those surrounding presence of a field - can support multiple modes, create and update. This is useful for cases where you might be using the same $validator against both new and existing recordsets, but want slightly different behavior for one or two rules.

// only require a name on update
  'Your cat needs a name, you cannot call it cat forever',
  'update' // the mode
// errors works in `create` mode by
// default. Set the second arg to
// `false` to use `update` mode
$errors = $validator->errors($data, false);

Of course, there are quite a few rules at your disposal by default, but you are welcome to create new ones. Maybe your rule validates that a cat is in a breed that exists in a specific database table?

namespace App\Model\Validation;
use Cake\ORM\TableRegistry;
use Cake\Validation\Validation;
class CatValidation extends Validation
  public static function validSpecies($check)
    $table = TableRegistry::get('Species');
    $species = $table->find('list')->toArray();
    return in_array((string)$check, array_values($species));

Now you can simply add this new class to your validator:

// map it
// if a class name, the methods *must* be static
$validator->provider('cat', 'App\Model\Validation\CatValidation');
// use it
$validator->add('species', 'validSpecies', [
    'rule' => 'validSpecies',
    'provider' => 'cat'