Reproducible detection of a target molecule is demonstrated using temporally stable solution-phase silica-void-gold nanoparticles and surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). These composite nanostructures are homogeneous (diameter = 45 +/- 4 nm) and entrap single 13 nm gold nanoparticle cores inside porous silica membranes which prevent electromagnetic coupling and aggregation between adjacent nanoparticles. The optical properties of the gold nanoparticle cores and structural changes of the composite nanostructures are characterized using extinction spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy, respectively, and both techniques are used to monitor the formation of the silica membrane. The resulting nanostructures exhibit temporally stable optical properties in the presence of salt and 2-naphthalenethiol. Similar SERS spectral features are observed when 2-naphthalenethiol is incubated with both bare and membrane-encapsulated gold nanoparticles. Disappearance of the S-H Raman vibrational band centered at 2566 cm(-1) with the composite nanoparticles indicates that the target molecule is binding directly to the metal surface. Furthermore, these nanostructures exhibit reproducible SERS signals for at least a 2 h period. This first demonstration of utilizing solution-phase silica-void-gold nanoparticles as reproducible SERS substrates will allow for future fundamental studies in understanding the mechanisms of SERS using solution-phase nanostructures as well as for applications that involve the direct and reproducible detection of biological and environmental molecules.