A cavitand functionalized with four alkylthioether groups at the lower rim, and four tolylpyridine groups on the upper rim is able to bind to a gold surface by its thioether groups, and forms a coordination cage with [Pd(dppp)(CF3SO3)2] by its pyridine groups. The cavitand or the cage complex can be inserted from solution into a self-assembled monolayer (SAM) of 11- mercaptoundecanol on gold. The inserted molecules can be individually detected as they protrude from the SAM by atomic force microscopy (AFM). The cages can be reversibly assembled and disassembled on the gold surface. AFM can distinguish between single cavitand and cage molecules of 2.5 nm and 5.8 nm height, respectively.