Setting up a Xamarin build with Cake

There are a lot of different ways for setting up your continuous delivery pipeline these days. Platforms like Mobile Center and Bitrise offer a complete solution that can be configured very easily. Another solution that’s gaining more popularity is Cake Build. Cake Build also has a lot to offer, but in quite a different way.

Cake is cross-platform build automation system, based on C#.  It’s open source (on GitHub) and became part of the .NET foundation last year. The possibilities with Cake are endless because you can use all the features that C# has to offer. You can even consume NuGet packages in your build script. Cake also has a few siblings called Jake, Make, Rake and Fake which are similar, but use other languages.

When setting up your build with Cake, you need to create a build file which contains your build steps, written in C#. Cake comes with a lot of default build tasks for you to use in your pipeline. A great advantage of having your configuration in a file, is that you can easily move to an other system or environment without having to reconfigure your entire pipeline. Adding this file to your source repository will also enable versioning on your build script, awesome! Cake build tools work on Windows, Linux and on Mac OS X.

To make the writing of your build scripts a lot more pleasant, there is a Visual Studio Code add-in and an Visual Studio add-in. The add-ins integrate Cake in your IDE and allow you to create the required files with a few clicks. Code completion, Intellisense (recently announced) and syntax highlighting are also great features that the add-in has to offer. If that’s not enough, and your build is still failing for some vague reason, you can even debug your build script to find the issue!

Getting started

When setting up your first Cake build, there are 3 files of importance:

  • Bootstrapper file: will download Cake.exe and all it’s dependencies using a PowerShell script for Windows (build.ps1) or a bash script for Mac OS X/ Linux ( When Cake is already installed with all it’s dependencies, the Cake.exe can also be called directly.
  • Build steps: This file (by default called “build.cake“) contains all the steps that need to be executed for the build to succeed. The build script can be written in a C# Domain-specific language. Because it’s written in C#, you are able to use all the C# features in your script!
    The execution order of the steps can be manipulated by making steps depend on each other, or by setting criteria. This can be achieved by using extensions methods.
  • NuGet packages: All the dependency required for the build to run are defined in a packages config file (tools/packages.config). The listed dependencies will be installed in the tools folder. An example dependency might for example be a unit test runner.

After specifying your build steps and dependencies, you can kick off the build by running the bootstrapper file:

Mac & Linux:



PS> .\build.ps1

Don’t hesitate to give Cake Build a try, you can run it side by side with your current build without modifying your project! My working example is also available on GitHub.

To ease the re-use of build scripts, Cake.Recipe was introduced. Cake.Recipe is a set of build tasks which can be consumed through NuGet. For more info, please visit their website.

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